Here lately I have been learning about foster kids. Children who the community places into a system which is intended for their good but too often is not. As a Christian, the Bible instructs me in the Old Testament and the New to cherish and care for the disenfranchised.
God is quite clear about this, even calling this practice “pure religion” (James 1:27). Does this not suggest this exercise is perfection in God’s eyes? If there is an instruction for focus in my Christian faith should it not be the helping of the poor, the widows and the orphans.
But let me stop there and be a bit transparent. As of a few weeks ago, I couldn’t think of one orphan I could call by name. In all honesty, I haven’t knowingly met an orphan until recently. But my faith teaches part of the perfecting of my faith is to ensure their care. One could also say it is the main Christian principle. Why do I say this?
The Greatest Commandment
The Bible tells us in Matthew 22 the most important rule to follow is to love God more than anything. Now to many, this belief is quite difficult to practice because it’s hard to love someone you can’t see. Okay, I hear you. But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus explains how we do this by teaching what has become known as the Golden Rule, “to love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Then he lays down this bombshell, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Now if I understand this correctly, this means Christian Theology hinges on my love for God and how I treat others. This principle is not restricted to my friends, or my blood relations, or those who can help me, but on every person in my community and beyond. Ouch.
Making It Easy to Understand
So, if I am to treat others as I would want them to treat me, where do I start? Well, the scripture says to start with God. But how can I treat God like how I want Him to treat me? The answer is simple.
First, we must begin to love the things God loves. Anyone who has ever been married for one day understands this principle. If we love our spouse, we better start loving the things which are important to them. To a wife, this may mean hearing, “I love you” often and showing it every day. To a husband, it may mean being treated with respect. But what’s important to God?
Okay, good question. Here is His answer:
James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Isaiah 1:17: Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
Psalm 68:5: A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation
Psalm 146:9: The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3: Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
John 14:18: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
When we focus on what’s important to God, then we are expressing our love for Him. There is no better way to please God than to partner with Him to express His love for the orphans, widows and poor in our communities.
Do Unto Others
Treating others as we want them to treat us can be a difficult concept in the human experience. We are creatures whose main instinct is self-preservation. Human nature in ancient days often caused families to abandon many newborn babies. There were no agencies to care for these unwanted infants; they were just left to die. People struggled to sustain enough food to eat each day, and another mouth to feed could put the rest of the family at risk.
Good people would often find these children abandoned on the side of a roadway and took them in as their own. This charity for orphans is the key principle of Christian faith. As a sinner, God found me on the side of the road to die. I wasn’t eligible for God’s grace until Jesus laid down His life on the Cross. It was this act of love which made His Father available to me and start my adoption process.
Adoption is Pleasing to God
Of course, my adoption is a metaphor when comparing what foster kids are experiencing today. But to God, there is little difference except for my reaction to His expressed love for me. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul uses the term adoption five times in letters to churches which were of Greek and Roman (Gentile) background.
Because it was well known, Jehovah was exclusive to the Hebrews as a Father and their position as children of God, the concept of adoption, or attaining the responsibilities and privileges of another was important to these Gentile believers.
So when Paul told the Ephesians it was God’s great pleasure to adopt them into what was reserved for the Jews, this was indeed a reason to celebrate.
Adoption Through Christ
Ephesians 1:5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
The very purpose of the cross was to take me (and all who want in) into God’s family. It was pleasing to Him to make me, a gentile sinner, His child.
Galatians 4:4-5 (NLT). 4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
And All God’s Benefits
And once I am a child of God, I have access to all which is His!
Romans 8:14-17: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father”] 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs.
Adoption is a picture of God the Father’s love for me, and likewise, my care for the orphan is an expression of this love in what the apostle James called “true religion.”
Today, American Christians are starting to understand the orphan crisis we have in our communities. This problem is not about us, but about loving others. We should see this circumstance as an opportunity to believe God is serious when He promises the orphan will not be forsaken.
I am committed with others to become a shining example by opening my time, talents and resources to ensure every child is not left without a home or a loving family.