Behold, the Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world! John 1:29
The translation above is not common, but I trust uncontroversial. But let me defend it. The literal meaning of the word often translated “forgive” in the Old Testament is nasa’, which means to bear or to carry. It is the word behind such passages as Exodus 34:6—“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving (nasa’) iniquity and transgression and sin…” In a similar way, the word John uses to speak of Jesus “taking away” the sin if the world is airo, a Greek word often meaning to carry or bear away (e.g. Matthew 11:29, 16:24; Mark 2:11).
Why is this important? Because it makes plain that sin is a weight that must be borne, an understanding of sin that is often obscured by our modern understanding of the word “forgive.” Part of the reason that our word of forgiveness can go unheard is that we don’t acknowledge the weight of sin. And abortion is a particularly heavy weight, for it (usually) involves the abandonment of a child by his or her parents. Sin is never simply forgotten—if it is forgiven, it is borne. And that is costly. This is the reason why the pro-choice movement can never be life giving, for by refusing to acknowledge that abortion is a sin (or even that it has very real aftereffects—physically, psychologically, and spiritually), it tells weary and guilt-laden women and men to forget about it. It is in effect the same thing that the false prophets of old proclaimed—“peace, peace, when there was no peace” (Jer. 6:14, 8:11). So the weight remains.
But, thanks be to God, Jesus came to bear heavy weights, even the sin of the world. It is a strong man that lifts heavy weights, and only a great Savior that saves great sinners. Like you and me. And the millions and millions that, one way or another, labor under the heavy weight of abortion.
Behold, the Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world! should be the first word that the church says to the world concerning abortion.
Heavenly Father, we approach You unchained by the burdens of our sins, even from the sin of abortion. Use Your Church to reach out to women and men hurting from abortion, to let them know that they can find peace and freedom from regret through faith in You alone. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
This week’s reflection has been written by Anglicans for Life’s Board Member, the Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn. Rev. Blackburn is the Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Fellowship in Boone, NC.