Dear Mars Hill Family,
You may or may not know me. My name is Holly. I’m one of the deacons at the Downtown Seattle church and have been attending Mars Hill for over 10 years now, and I met my husband during the launch of the Downtown Seattle church about five years back. We have a super cute little boy named Asher who is almost a year and a half, and another baby on the way, due in June. I’ve had the humbling privilege—and I do mean “humbling”—to serve our church family over the years in various capacities, most recently as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for our local church.
When hard words are loving
I’m writing to you today because my heart has been burdened since the last sermon in the He Made Us Family series, particularly around the section where Pastor Mark spoke on abortion and the slaughter of the innocents. Hard words were used and likely offended many men and women alike, but I want to make an appeal to you: those words, though hard, were extremely loving. To show you what I mean, I want to share with you a little of my own life, because I was a murderer of children.
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. . . . Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Ephesians 5:8–14
Choosing to be blind to sin
When I was much younger, I had two abortions, just a year apart from each other. The circumstances of each were different, but both times I felt like I had no other choice. And because I felt like I had no other choice, I rationalized my decisions and chose to believe that for me it was different, that in my situation, choosing abortion wasn’t that wrong. Often, I wouldn’t talk about what I had done, but if I did, I would use words that were soft so that it didn’t seem that bad. I chose to be blind to my sin.
I was able to live for a number of years as if the two babies I’d killed weren’t that big a deal, as if they never existed. But, whenever the topic of abortion came up in any circumstance, especially at church, I was overwhelmed with feelings of shame, condemnation, and guilt. My voluntary blindness didn’t serve me in those moments. I was trying to keep this piece of my life hidden in the dark.
But the Lord had other plans, and he called me to bring what was sin into the light.
Bringing sin into the light
I was terrified. I did not want to face what he was leading me to face: sharing with my community that I had had two abortions and learning to see those abortions as God sees them: the slaughter of two little babies whom he had made and entrusted to my care.
And here’s the point in my story where I want to illustrate why I found Pastor Mark’s hard words so loving: It wasn’t until I saw my sin for what it was, saw it for how brutal and awful it was, saw it for how the Lord sees it—only then could I truly come to repentance and recognize that I needed my Savior. I needed to see myself as a murderer of children before I could really repent of the sin that I committed when I aborted those two little babies. I needed to see myself as that bad so that when I was reminded that Jesus died for this for me and gave me his righteousness before the Father (my new identity!), I could see the incredible magnificence of his lavish grace poured out on me, a sinner.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
Defined in Christ, not sin
But no more! That sin no longer defines me. It is not who I am! It may help explain me and the redemptive story God has for my life, but it has no bearing on my identity. My identity is a new creation, covered by the blood of Christ, a righteous daughter in the sight of God, the highest authority on heaven and earth!
These days, when the topic of abortion comes up, I have no shame, no guilt, no condemnation for me because Jesus took that upon himself. Instead, when the topic arises, like in last weekend’s sermon, I can’t help but praise God because I am reminded of what he has already done in me! I can talk freely of this part of my past with others and places like this because this sin no longer belongs to me. Jesus died for it and redeemed me so it’s really his story that he gets to be glorified in. I am his workmanship that he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus so that others would see this and praise him! So, not only does my sin no longer have power over me, but Jesus uses the reconciling work he did in it to bring glory to himself and invite others to know him and praise him as well.
You see, how can we see our new identity as good news if we continue to look on our sin as not really that bad? It is grace to us to see ourselves clearly in the light of the law and the reality of sin—because that is where we really realize we need a Savior.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1–2
A word to the women
Ladies, if you were offended by this portion of Pastor Mark’s sermon, I implore you to ask yourself, why? Are there areas of your life that you are choosing to be blind to?
I would invite you to ask the Lord to give you his eyes for that area. Learn to see yourself in the light of the law, acknowledging your sin for what it is so that you can experience the repentance and grace that he has for you there.
Did you feel shame, guilt and/or condemnation during this part of the sermon?
If you are a Christian, shame, guilt, condemnation do not belong to you. Jesus died to give you grace and a new identity, reconciling you to God the Father. I know by experience that his grace is sufficient to redeem you and grow you into your new identity in a way that sermons like this actually serve to evoke praise because they are a reminder of what we once were, but now no longer are because of Christ. Learn to see your sin the way God sees it. I encourage you to talk to your Community Group leader or, if you are not yet in a Community Group, find one or find a deacon or pastor to talk to. 1 John 1:7 promises: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
If you are not a Christian, then I invite you to know Jesus. Confess your sin to him, receive his grace and your new identity, which he is offering to all. Then, get yourself into a Community Group so you can have sisters and brothers in the faith to walk with you, pray for you, and encourage you.
How timely that we are diving into the Ephesians series—which is all about identity—this month! I pray that this would be a significant season of transformation and redemption for us, that we would grow to know our identities in Jesus more deeply and become more unwavering in our faith because we serve a risen God who is unmatched!
Holly Webster is a deacon at the Downtown Seattle church