Defending Maddi Runkles: Grace In Response To Pregnancy

God’s grace is not simply a pardon. God’s grace is an invitation to repent, find healing, and to walk in restoration with Him who rescued us from slavery and called us His child.

Maddi Runkles is an 18-year-old senior at Heritage Academy, a small Christian school in Boonsboro, Maryland. Maddi became pregnant a few months back and she has made the moral and responsible choice to raise her child. However, this decision has not come void of conflict. Heritage Academy has decided that while they will award her a diploma, she will not be allowed to participate in her graduation ceremony.

I take great issue with their decision. Maddi’s decision to engage in premarital sex, while sinful, is one act that should not merit the prohibition of a ceremony that reflects twelve years of hard work.

This type of punishment also sends a fearful message to girls who may be found in Maddi’s position and thus may persuade them to abort their child to avoid similar ramifications.

Maddi's Example Despite Cultural Pressure

Pro-choice advocates support abortion because a child can “disrupt the young woman’s future." Well, Maddi holds a 4.0 GPA, is active in sports, served on student council, and was recently accepted to college. She saw a promising future for herself, too. But in an act of selflessness she observed the promising future of another person: her soon-to-be son. Maddi’s future will most definitely be disrupted. Some opportunities she would have had without a child are no more, and she recognizes that. But now she has an opportunity that she would not have had if she didn’t have a child. She has the opportunity to give life, to inspire other girls who have found themselves in this extremely challenging situation, and to reveal the beauty of the gospel message all while attending college to advance in her career. Opportunities that she may miss out on are trivial and not worth the ending of a human life to experience.

Sin and Restoration

It is imperative that I stress the importance of sexual purity. Intercourse is a communal act of love and affection ordained by Father God Almighty within the parameters of the marriage covenant. Fornication is nothing trivial and a breach in this statute hurts God, the Church, and future relationships between those involved. Anyone found to be in this sin, or any sin, should assume a repentant posture and the Church should surround them with a heart of exhortative restoration.

The holistic biblical narrative is one of restoration through a repentant heart and Christ’s work on the Cross.

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Maddi made a terrible choice in engaging in intercourse, but she has also set an example of repentance, owning her decision, taking responsibility to raise a child, and using her experience to bring hope to other girls found in the same situation. All of this is evidence of Maddi’s faith in Christ and His work in her life.

Some may argue that Maddi should face punishment despite her repentance because consequences aid in the learning process, consequences show others what can happen in sin, and consequences show that sin is not to be undermined. I agree that repentance should not replace consequences, regardless of the sin. However, allowing Maddi to participate in her graduation ceremony does not undermine the severity of sin; rather it magnifies the power of grace.

God’s grace is not simply a pardon. God’s grace is an invitation to repent, find healing, and to walk in restoration with Him who rescued us from slavery and called us His child.

“If she isn’t punished then other girls will feel like they too can get a pass.”

Well, allowing Maddi to graduate with her class is not “giving her a pass.” She was suspended, she was removed from her position on student council, and I am sure she has been told that her actions were sinful. That is not a pass. I agree with the school’s decision to suspend her and take her off student council. Leadership comes with the expectation that you will set the example. Maddi made a decision that rightfully merited her dismissal from the council, and she has humbly acknowledged that. I had the privilege to meet Maddi at a pro-life event sponsored by Students for Life in Washington D.C. and after hearing her story I can assure you that girls who hear Maddi’s story will not find a message of apathy towards sexual purity, but one of reverence to God and hope for those found in her position.

Maddi Runkles is a child of the Most High King Jesus who has wept with Maddi, rested with Maddi, and will continue to carry Maddi through this season and onto greater things.

To Heritage Academy,

I applaud you on holding your students to biblical standards. Biblical truth and holiness are lacking immensely among this generation, so thank you for doing your part to set students on a straight and narrow trajectory.

But as you know the gospel narrative rests on the bedrock of grace which, as I described above, does not mean that we should discount punishment but rather pair it with the hope of restoration. I understand there is an honor code that the students agree to obey while being students and that the consequences of violating this code may result in prohibition from graduation. But I urge you, considering the potential ramifications that this will have on the abortion dialogue, to reconsider in this case. Your decision to prohibit Maddi Runkles from walking with her graduating class does not fit the sentiment of restoration. She deserved a punishment and she received it by being suspended and dismissed from leadership. Since the punishment has been administered, now is the time to pursue the restorative process.

Curious, is your decision to prohibit her participation based on her pregnancy or act of sex? If she confessed to having sex but didn't become pregnant or was as a point in her pregnancy where she wasn't visibly showing would you still prohibit her participation? Is this about you or her? I hope the "appearance of evil" isn't what concerns you hear because Maddi's story is saturated in God's glory.

Instead of hiding Maddi from graduation, you should spotlight her as an example of the gospel being active in her life. Remember, there is likely to be people in the audience at graduation who are not saved. Use Maddi's story and her willingness to share it to advance the gospel message to those who otherwise may not hear it!

See Maddi as an accolade to your school and how you make the gospel practical in your students lives. I’d rather be known as a Christian school who walks with their students through trials and sees them through restoratively than a school who punishes them without an aggressive dose of hope.

For the Gospel,


Hi, my name is John and I love coffee. As I write this I’m sitting in a local roastery sipping a “mudslide” espresso with cream and two and a half sugars. There are few things in life that I feel merit precise orchestration with no room for error, coffee is one of them.

My life belongs to Jesus. I am his son and He is my King. His work in my life is reason enough for my faith to be made complete. He lived to die for me so that I may be credited righteous thus I will live for Him. I believe one area that has been greatly ignored by Christians is culture and politics. We must be active in representing our faith in these communities, but not in a relativistic or compromising way.

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