What I Learned from the Christian Who Thanked Planned Parenthood

By Steve Austin | Best of Messy Grace

Dec 04

Many of us were glued to the news last Friday, as the story of the shooting in Colorado Springs unfolded. A lone gunman, Robert Dear, killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

This past Wednesday, I was intrigued by the actions of a dear friend and former classmate, Sarah, when I saw this:


Sarah took a bouquet of roses and a letter of apology to her local Planned Parenthood office, on behalf of Christians who believe in messy grace.

Her bold act really sparked my thinking on what I can personally do to show grace and love in tangible ways. I asked if I could ask her a few questions and share her responses here.

Me: Sarah, what was your motivation for this random act of kindness toward your local Planned Parenthood this week?

Sarah: I’ve been in the cosmetology industry for the past seven years. I see women and hear about the hopes, disappointments and tragedies of their lives five days a week. So honestly this wasn’t a “random act of kindness”, it was a seed sown for and in memorandum of a lot of hearts that have been hurt. It was for those who hate Christians because Christ has been so misrepresented and those who have felt the sting of abortion.

Hurting people hurt people, that’s easy and requires no accountability, Christians and non-Christians are capable of that. My thought was “What if I just say I’m really sorry for the pain that has been thrown at you in the name of God?”  

 [clickToTweet tweet=”I’m really sorry for the pain that has been thrown at you in the name of God. #PlannedParenthood #graceismessy” quote=”I’m really sorry for the pain that has been thrown at you in the name of God.” theme=”style3″] 

Me: Your letter mentioned that Christians and Planned Parenthood staff have the same goals: to bring empowerment and hope. Even if we agree that our goals are the same, there are many who feel strongly opposed to the methods of Planned Parenthood. What would you say to those who feel no apology is owed, especially after the hidden camera footage from the past year?

Sarah: It was really upsetting to see the sale of babies (I can’t just use the word fetus, it feels like I’m making them objects instead of little people). I know the stats, I’ve seen the church yards covered in crosses symbolizing all the abortions that have happened since 1973. But even though the killing, the selling and the disregard for life is heinous, so are Christians who act like we are judge and jury.

I know the founding of Planned Parenthood in the early 1920’s was to support, protect and defend the plight of femininity. Their motto is “We care. No matter what.” That’s stunning! The letter actually was two-fold: an apology and a thank you. Yep, I said thank you to Planned Parenthood. I thanked them because, at their roots, they cared, no matter what. That sounds a lot like Jesus. Have they wandered from that? Yep. Can they get back to where they started and even better? Of course.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Unconditional love ignites restoration. #graceismessy #PlannedParenthood #lovewins” quote=”Unconditional love ignites restoration.” theme=”style3″] 

Me: I remember the aftermath of the 1998 abortion clinic bombing by Eric Rudolph. I have driven by the countless protests and seen the angry faces of those claiming the banner of Christianity. Aren’t you worried about your message being unclear? That in saying, “I’m sorry for what happened,” you are also approving of abortion?

Sarah: That’s an interesting question. I’m not worried that it’ll be unclear. I wrote that I am a Christian intentionally, I also wrote I’m a pro-life one. If people think I approve, they don’t know my heart or they’re choosing to be blind. Shrug. That’s not my concern, bless their hearts.

I’m not saying, “Here’s a bouquet of roses and a little note, I totally am ok with the 55,772,015 abortions that have been performed since Roe v. Wade was finalized!” I’m saying, “Hey, I choose to love you unconditionally, like Jesus, and I’m sorry for those who don’t. And I congratulate how you love-even if it’s different from mine. Even if the outcome is something I strongly disagree with, your intent was spot on.” Some say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well I think the road to reconciliation is paved with seeing those intentions, celebrating them and then seeing how we can change for the better.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The road to reconciliation is paved with the celebration of good intentions. #plannedparenthood #graceismessy ” quote=”The road to reconciliation is paved with the celebration of good intentions. ” theme=”style3″]

Me:  A New York Times article recently described Robert Dear:

…an angry and occasionally violent man who seemed deeply disturbed and deeply contradictory: He was a man of religious conviction who sinned openly, a man who craved both extreme solitude and near-constant female company, a man who successfully wooed women but, some of them say, also abused them.”

In the same Facebook post where you shared photographs of the beautiful bouquet of roses and your gracious letter to Planned Parenthood, you said, “…unconditional love is a big deal and will always ignite restoration.”

If you had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Dear or those with views similar to him – the people of Westboro Baptist Church, for example – what would you say?

Sarah: Oh man, the Westboro Baptist Church. I have made it a point to “keep my love on” (thank you Danny Silk for writing that book!) and the WBC and people like Mr. Dear make me want to go ham and shut it off! I won’t, promise. They need unconditional (sometimes uncomfortable) love too.

I would ask them if they ever saw their Savior protest in the manner they do or if He was more inclined to say, “You who haven’t sinned, throw the first stone.” The point is we’ve all failed miserably. So let’s support and value each other, even if we vehemently disagree.  

[clickToTweet tweet=”Unconditional love sometimes feels uncomfortable. #graceismessy #PlannedParenthood #lovewins” quote=”Unconditional love sometimes feels uncomfortable. ” theme=”style3″] 

Me: Finally, what would you say those who have read this story and feel they could never do something as bold or controversial?

Sarah: For me, it’s not about simply doing good deeds. Honestly, that sounds a little trite. The whole “random acts of kindness” thing can be done by anyone in a Starbucks drive-thru. I don’t only want to encourage nice deeds; I want the heart check of loving someone where they’re at-imperfections, different viewpoints, etc.

At the end of the day we’re probably never going to see eye to eye. Heck, we have hundreds of denominations for that very reason! I don’t need you to agree and I don’t need to agree with you. I do need for you to know that you’re unconditionally loved as-is; not when you finally start behaving like I want you to. The celebration of people–wherever they’re at–is vital to them actually experiencing that love. If you’re unaware of your own value or if you feel lacking in your capacity to love people who are different from you, go spend a little time with Love Himself.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Christ has been misrepresented. #plannedparenthood #graceismessy #lovewins” quote=”Christ has been misrepresented.” theme=”style3″] 

Me: Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your heart with us. If I have learned anything from your bold act, it’s that open dialogue and vulnerability are the launching pad for reconciliation. And love cannot be boxed in by denomination or political affiliation.

Follow Sarah on Instagram! @iamsarahparker

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Terrific interview, Steve. We all need to love as Christ loved, as Sarah has chosen to love – uncomfortably, unrestrained, unconditionally.

    • Steve Austin says:

      Susan,First, I want to say thanks for always commenting. I look forward to your comments and it means so much! And you are right…love is the only way, but sometimes it is definitely uncomfortable. Sarah blows me away. She’s a genuine follower of Christ…and she always keeps it real.

      Blessings to you today!

      • You’re welcome, Steve, and back ‘atcha. It’s important for those of us expressing the true Gospel of love and acceptance to uplift one another, to encourage each other. The best way to add to the Father’s family is to love people into it. Finger pointing and condemnation will only cause them to walk away from Him. He’s made it abundantly clear He wants to embrace all of creation in His very loving arms.

      • Steve Austin says:

        Yes, yes, yes. Love wins.

  • Stacey says:

    When Christ stood up to sin, he called it what it was Sin. And he did not make many friends. In fact there where a lot of people that wanted him dead because he stood on the Word. Your story is all fluff and feel good, that’s what this world is about. Unconditional love is giving them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A whole lot better then flowers and reconciliation. Sounds like your making your self feel good. Give them the gospel. Them before you. That’s Love

  • […] friend Sarah’s story is being featured today by The Good News […]

  • vlmrhm says:

    I too, have seen first hand how loving someone unconditionally frees the person to receive Christ. Christ does not say we need to clean up before coming to Him. Because duh!! We cannot…loving someone as Christ’s love melts the heart..

  • Nick says:

    I think the attitude of loving one’s enemies is laudable & quite Christlike. That being said there is one major issue with the article. It said, “I know the founding of Planned Parenthood in the early 1920’s was to support, protect and defend the plight of femininity.” This is simply not true. Margaret Sanger was a committed eugenicist who was attempting to breed undesirable races out of existence. That’s not political spin. That’s fact. Here are a couple of quotes to help illustrate the point.
    “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” (Excerpt from a letter to Clarence Gamble, Dec. 10, 1939)
    “No more children should be born when the parents, though healthy themselves, find that their children are physically or mentally defective.” (“Woman and the New Race,” 1920, Chapter 7).
    “The main objects of the Population Congress would be to apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring[;] to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.” (“A Plan for Peace,” 1932).

    Now if you think that last quote sounds more like something Hitler or Mengele would have said then you’re starting to grasp just how evil the origin of Planned Parenthood is. Now, are all those who work for PP or similar groups fascist Nazi monsters who want to destroy all non-white human life? Clearly they’re not. But to make the claim that the origin of PP is rooted in the common goal of defending “the plight of femininity” is simply untrue. And it is wholly untrue to say that PP loves people too, just differently from us. Do we believe that the abusive husband who beats his wife and then says that he loves her is telling the truth? Or the pedophile who says he chose his victim because he loved her? Absolutely not. We rightly call it what it is… SIN. EVIL. And in the case of PP, when they rip a tiny baby apart limb from limb, sever its spinal column, then suck it out with a vacuum, is that love? Please don’t miss this. If we admit that they are being loving, then we must admit that the abuser and rapist are loving too. In order to meaningfully engage them with the gospel of grace we have to start by being willing to call their actions what they are: sin.

    There is so much more I could say but let me end with this. The gospel is that all have sinned. Abortionists, those who support them, those who murder their children, as well as those who claim to know Jesus yet live nothing like Him are guilty of sin in the eyes of a perfect, holy God. Not one person is righteous in the eyes of God on their own. Neither you, me, the murderer, or the abortionist. The gospel of grace that the Bible clearly teaches promises forgiveness in Christ to all who turn to Him as their only hope. He is the hope of the attacker, the abortionist, and the average joe on the street.
    Once again, let me restate that I think it is wonderful to demonstrate grace, kindness, and mercy to those who are so very different from us. But let’s make sure we understand the whole context of the issue so we can better love and engage our enemies for the sake of sharing the wonderful Gospel of grace that can actually bring true forgiveness.

    And believe me when I say, I do not enjoy facebook fights. That’s the furthest thing from my intention here. I do however enjoy dialogue and discussion so please feel free to interact with this or even message me. Peace & Rest, Nick.

    • Steve Austin says:

      Hi Nick,
      Thanks for reading, commenting, and for sharing all of that information. I appreciate you clarifying some of the history of Planned Parenthood and some of your own views in a respectful way. Sarah is very clear on the fact that Planned Parenthood does abortions and I believe we are all aware of how that happens; I think it makes her story all the more powerful because she chose to show love, even if she doesn’t support the idea of abortions. Her act wasn’t to excuse any behavior, it was to say that Jesus loves us all, before we ever change a thing, just like he did with the woman caught in adultery. Her whole point was to say, “I’m sorry for all the pain that has been shown to you in the name of God.” And that’s an idea I can get behind.

      Blessings to you,

      • Nick says:

        Unfortunately though, her affirmations of Planned Parenthood’s origins & mission muddy the water. If she knows how they started why does she say that they began as a way of empowering women when that is most certainly not the case? And if she knows what their current practises are why does she say that Christians and PP have the same goals? These statements don’t serve to clarify things. In fact, they seem to display either a lack of understanding regarding PP or a lack of understanding of the Biblical position in regards to sin & abortion.

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