We’re entering the season where the Church remembers the innocent babies murdered by Herod. But where is the outrage for the hundreds of thousands of unborn children killed by abortion every year in the UK today, asks Tim Lewis
In December the Church remembers one of the darkest stories in the New Testament. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that, in a doomed attempt to kill Jesus, Herod the Great ordered the massacre of all male children under two years old in the vicinity of Bethlehem (2:16-18).
The Feast of the Holy Innocents, or Holy Innocents’ Day, is celebrated shortly after Christmas day, on 28 December. The proximity to Christmas makes sense, yet the juxtaposition of seasonal glow with slaughtered children jars. But God became a baby in the world as it actually is, with all its heart-rending tragedy and vicious cruelty.
The number of male children killed by Herod is guesswork, perhaps 20 at most based on the limited locale and age range. But one figure about which there is no uncertainty is the number of unborn children killed in the UK today – 228,627 innocent lives were ended in 2021, surgically dismembered or poisoned and then flushed down the toilet. Is what we are doing to our children any more civilised than Herod? Perhaps this revelation also jars.
By taking on flesh in utero, Jesus hallows the life of the unborn child
Christians need to understand abortion not just socially, legally and politically, but theologically: taking seriously what the Bible teaches about the unborn child. The incarnation occurred not at Christ’s birth but at his conception. By taking on flesh in utero, Jesus hallows the life of the unborn child. We should recognise, along with Job, that social justice begins in the womb (31:13-15). In Luke 18:15, the children brought to Jesus included infants; the same Greek word, brephos, described the newborn Jesus (Luke 2:12,16), and the unborn John (Luke 1:41,44). Jesus opens our minds to who our neighbour really is; it is in the last, the least and the lost that we discover the face of Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). How can we exclude unborn humans?
More than 800 of our unborn neighbours are killed every working day in the UK. More than 98 per cent of abortions are performed on healthy mothers and healthy children. The child is simply unwanted and abortion is seen as the answer. Christians need to expose the narrative around abortion in terms of ‘healthcare’, ‘women’s rights’ and ‘reproductive justice’ as the falsehood that it is. There is no human right to kill another human being. As Isaiah 5:20 says: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”
When we understand the reality of abortion, the appropriateness of grief becomes clear. Rachel lamented Israel’s lost children (Jeremiah 31:15). Do we weep for ours?
By the age of 45, one in three women in the UK will have had at least one abortion. Given its prevalence, it is remarkable that we hear so little about it from the pulpit. Nor does this silence help post-abortive Christian women who bear their guilt alone, feeling the topic is essentially taboo in Church. God’s word speaks into every issue. His grace is powerful enough to forgive any sin and heal every hurt.
Matthew’s Gospel is clear that Herod and his dynasty had power, but it didn’t last. Jesus, the author of life, is still worshipped more than 2,000 years later. May we follow Jesus in loving all children, including those in the womb, by rejecting abortion. How many lives might be saved if Christians throughout the UK took this message to heart and were moved to action on behalf of their unborn neighbour?