Josh is the executive director of a pregnancy resource center in New York. In between networking with members of the community and other nonprofits in the area, he enjoys drinking coffee, planning events, and traveling with Save the Storks. You can follow his adventures via photos and videos on his Instagram account.
“Are you going to introduce yourself to the people at the Planned Parenthood table?” Her words seemed out of place. Me? I was pro-life. I was a Christian. No. And I had two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to give the wrong impression and 2) What would our donors think if I associated with “the enemy?”
As far as I was concerned, I wanted nothing to do with them—including even talking to them—and I was confident that my decision to not engage was wise, and just made good sense.
At the community fair that day there were two ladies representing Planned Parenthood; one was the Community Relations Director and the other an intern from one of the local universities. When they visited our table, I wasn’t shocked, but their demeanor caught me off guard— they were friendly, genuine, and kind.
“Oh, I love what you guys are doing!”
“Do you know about the upcoming community meeting?”
They were eager to assist me and help my organization navigate the waters of nonprofit work; their excitement to meet us, their new neighbors, was plain. Turns out the Community Relations Director had grown up near me and went to a high school where two members of my church now teach—and she knew them both.
We had a lot in common. We grew up in the same area. We attended the same university. We knew some of the same people. She works with Planned Parenthood because she wants to help people and is excited to do so. I work with my organization for the same reason. Had we been in college at the same time there is no doubt we would have been friends. But because she worked for Planned Parenthood, I had decided I wanted nothing to do with her.
I was no stranger to the origins of Planned Parenthood’s founding. Growing up, I heard the stories, saw the pictures, and read accounts of what Planned Parenthood does; millions of lives taken at their hands.
But my view of the organization had precluded me from seeing that it is composed of people—people not so different from me. People for whom Christ came and died. Women and men who need to be loved just as Christ loves me.
As I talked with the Community Relations Director, I was convicted of my self-righteous attitude. Like a Pharisee, I had judged those from Planned Parenthood as unworthy to even talk to. It was then I realized there was little difference between me and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day; when He sat down with the prostitutes and tax collectors they said “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
And how did He respond? In Mark 2:17 He says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Jesus did something no other “religious” member of the day was willing to do – sit down, love, and engage those deemed “unworthy” and “unclean.” What a testimony! How did those sitting at that table feel? Jesus, the Son of God, sitting and talking with them. Finally, someone not looking at them with disdain. But someone who loved.
For those who work and volunteer at Planned Parenthood, how often is their interaction with the pro-life community one of hate? Or disdain? Or disregard?
But doesn’t Jesus love them? Didn’t He die for them too? If their only interaction with pro-life Christians is one of hate or indifference, how will they know God is love? And who will share the Good News with them?
I talked with the Community Relations Director for about 20 minutes. Then throughout the day we would run into each other and chat further—like new friends more than anything else.
I realized I didn’t want our organization’s interaction with Planned Parenthood to be one of hate or indifference. Rather, I want Planned Parenthood to say, “Wow. You’re not like the other Christian organizations I know.”
I often tell our volunteers that if a client walks out of our center with nothing more than the knowledge that she or he is loved, then it’s a success. Whether we have 5 minutes or 50 minutes with a client, loving them will always have a far greater impact than anything else we could offer.
The same is true for everyone – including those who work for Planned Parenthood. Whether I have 50 seconds or 50 minutes to talk with them, I want them to know they are loved and cared for by our organization, by me, and not that we hate them and wish ill upon them.
Prior to the start of my day, my prayer was “Lord, connect us to someone of influence who can further the mission of our organization.” During the first hour of the event I stood there praying,“Lord, bring a person of influence to our table. There are many people here and I can’t possibly connect with them all. You bring the right person to us.” And then who should come on over but Planned Parenthood.
The call of the believer is to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The pro-life movement has recognized the value of the lives of the unborn. And the believer must recognize the value of alllives. Jesus didn’t show partiality when He died on the cross. So how can we?