Many years ago, I met a woman who had adopted children through the same agency Candy, my wife, and I went through for our three children (one adopted from Russia, two from Ethiopia). This woman’s children were from China.
The woman was working with Candy and me to create a central North Carolina chapter of families who had adopted through this particular agency, a Christian organization. One of the keys for our chapter would be the support of the pastors and churches where the adoptive families worshiped. However the woman, the organizer, told us her pastor was not interested.
She attended a large church, much larger than my church. It was a church full of resources. And the pastor flatly told her he had no interest in adoption ministry and she would not have any help from him or support. She couldn’t even host events at the church building. His interest was in the saving of souls. He didn’t have time for social programs like adoption.
God has a decidedly different view.
In constituting a nation to be the nation of God’s people, God had this to say; “You must also give food to the poor who live in your town, including orphans, widows, and foreigners. If they have enough to eat, then the your God will be pleased and make you successful in everything you do” (Deuteronomy 14:29). Provision for the fatherless was an essential ingredient for the people of God. It was an unambiguous necessity. Saying, “well, that’s not my ministry,” was not an option available to them.
When faced with tribulation due to the assaults of “the wicked,” the Psalmist prays to God calling God a helper of orphans and one who gives justice to orphans (Psalm 10:14, 18). In other words, the way the one praying identifies God is in terms of how God treats orphans. Why can I pray to God?? Oh, I can pray to God because God is the one who aids those children who have no mother or father. This is how God is known, as “helper of those without families” (also see Hosea 14:3).
When the prophets of Israel called for justice, or condemned the nation because of an utter failure of justice, one of the chief symptoms was how the nation treated orphans. The way the fatherless were cared for or abused was an unmistakable indicator of whether the nation honored God or dishonored God. Passages to consider: Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 7:6; 22:1-3; Ezekiel 22:7. Also, James 1:27 speaks to the necessity of caring for orphans.
We then see that from early in the days of Moses through the fiery exhortations of the prophets through the serene wisdom in the Psalms up to the New Testament ethic found in James, comprehensive care of orphans is a Biblical mandate. What does that say to Christians who want to follow the guidance of scripture today?
It says the pastor who told the adoptive mom she’d get no help from him was flat out wrong. He acted against God’s designs.
I am thankful the church where I am a pastor has other members who are themselves adopted. We have adoptive parents in our church. And our church has many members who support at-risk children through sponsorship. In November, we celebrate all who care for orphans and as we do, we call upon everyone in the church to pray earnestly, asking God how he or she is to join the effort.
This is God’s call. Are you being called to sponsor a child? Give respite to foster parent? Or, are you in a situation where you are being called to become a foster parent yourself or to adopt? These are challenges. But God does not call us to safety, comfort, and ease. We are called to follow Jesus to the cross. On the way of the cross, we carry another’s burden and enter his pain that he might be blessed and enter Jesus’ joy. In doing so, we are filled with the spirit and live in a joy we’d never know if we stayed on the sidelines trying to take it easy.
Pray. And when you do and you hear God calling you to radically change your life by making care of orphans a top priority (and this will happen), then answer that prayer will joyful willingness. You’ll be eternally glad that you did.