It was another hot, muggy Mexico night. Dark rain clouds cast a black curtain over the normal spread of stars. An occasional streak of lightning cut the air, followed by a deep, rough rumble from somewhere beyond the night. A summer storm was brewing, and it was a welcome sight. My boys had settled in for the night, and the only sound coming from inside was the roar of the windmill fan wafting through the open windows. I yawned and turned to go inside, killing the porch light as I stepped into the dark room. I had hardly latched the door when I heard what sounded like muffled sobs coming from the bed in the corner. Eduardo. I walked to his bedside and sat down, taking his small body in my arms. “Tio, don’t leave me!” His words, muffled by sobs, were laced with hurt and desperation. “Why did they take my brother and sister away? Why did nobody want me? Why did my family not love me?” His train of words seemed to be derailing as his small body, tense with fear, shook and tears streamed from his soft, hazel brown eyes. He had arrived earlier that afternoon, transferred from another orphanage because of an attempt to take his own life. He was only eight, but he had already tried hanging himself trying to end the misery that his short life had brought him. My own tears began to flow as I listened and tried to absorb the brokenness of another life that God had placed in my care. How could such injustice, such hurt, such evil, already have done so much to take away the freedom of childhood? Would this child be able to experience the love that I had felt as a child? Would there ever be a forever family that this young lad could be a part of and thrive in?
From working at an orphanage in the hot Mexico desert, to working in a Juvenile Detention center here in the states, to being part of a family that has made the call of adoption a part of their life, I feel extremely blessed for the first-hand experiences I’ve had in relating to the unwanted and fatherless of this world. Adoption and foster care are necessary activities for believers who are serious about obedience to the Great Commission. The impulse that drives a Christian to reach out with the Gospel to the lost in the community, should be the same impulse that drives every believer to reach out with the Gospel to the fatherless within local communities and across the world.
Adoption and the Believer
By its very definition, adoption implies the idea of legally bringing a child into your family and raising that child as your own. It is in no way unique to Christianity, but there is a much more complex and glorious reality when a believer pursues adoption within the context of God’s love for him in the Gospel. Adoption is at the core of the Gospel. God — a loving Father — not only sought the sinner, but also chose to adopt him through the horrific death and suffering of Christ on the cross.”
- “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12).
- “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).
- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3:1).
As a direct result of this undeserved love that God lavished on His children through Jesus Christ, believers everywhere are called to follow God’s heart and, in turn, love the least of these. I John 4:19 reminds Christians that “we love, because He first loved us.” Without a proper view of the Gospel, and the identity a believer now has as a result – a child of the King of Kings– foster care and adoption only become another morally good act. The Gospel itself should be enough to motivate believers to action in the area of taking in the abandoned. After all, each and every person who claims the name of Jesus was at one time in that exact condition – abandoned and alone. But thanks be to God, because of Christ, there is a forever family that will never leave or abandon us.
Adoption is God’s Heart and Should Be Ours
Throughout different parts of Scripture, it is clear that God is vested, deeply and personally, in the plight of all who may be destitute or defenseless – including the orphan. As far back as Deuteronomy, we find Moses writing, “He [God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18). Moses again, speaking to Israel in Deuteronomy 24:17 says, “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless…” David, in Psalm 10:14, acknowledges God as being the “helper of the fatherless”. Within other places of Scripture, we see God calling his people, those who have been adopted into his family, to join Him and share His passion for the fatherless – the orphan, sharing with each child the love of Jesus Christ and the freedom he offers through the glorious Gospel story. Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, “…learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”. The New Testament also beckons believers. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” (James 1:27).
Adoption Should Play an Important Role in the Local Church.
Randy and Kelsey Bohlender, in their must-read book The Spirit of Adoption, pose the question, “What if abortion ended in America? What would happen to the approximate 4,500 babies that would be born each day rather than aborted? Would they be wanted? Would the Church step up to the task of caring for the orphan, the cast off ones, the unwanted? The harder question is, would we” (Bohlender, 22)? The Biblical church today is quick to say that abortion is a sin – a criminal activity. Do their actions speak louder than their words? The church doesn’t need to wait for abortion to be made illegal, however. The urgency for Gospel-centered families to extend loving arms to the fatherless stands to be a big need even today, and it is important that local churches develop a culture of orphan care that permeates the church. There are approximately 17.6 million children worldwide that have lost both parents. This number does not include the estimated 2 to 8+ million children living in institutions. Nor does it include the vast number of children living on the streets, exploited for labor, victims of trafficking, or participating in armed conflict (www.cafo.org/resource/on-understanding-orphan-statistics/, 1). As of 2013, there were nearly 400,000 children in the foster care system at any given time. In addition, more than 100,000 of those children are awaiting adoption (Carr, 14). Local churches across the nations have the mandate, as part of the Great Commission, to care for the world’s orphans through nurturing relationships. Does this mean that every family within a church is to pursue adoption? Probably not. It does mean, however, that those who are actively involved in foster care and adoption should have the support of other believers within the church. Singles and other married couples can all play an important role in giving prayer, financial, and physical support where needed. Churches also do themselves a service when they can build a good relationship with a local Social Service or adoption agency. Having a foster/adoption awareness class to inform church members of what is involved can be extremely beneficial. Caring for the marginalized within our society is clearly at the center of our Father’s covenant with his people. God’s people are commanded to care for orphans as a direct result of who God is – Yahweh, a “father to the fatherless, protector of the widows” (Psalm 68:5).
As a believer, to act on God’s call to care for orphans should not be based on duty, guilt, or idealism. It is to be motivated out of a heart that has been transformed by the incredible love of a Father who found us in our orphaned state and chose to adopt us, giving us the undeserved privilege of being called His sons and daughters. Johnny Carr, author of Orphan Justice writes, “Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children. We can’t be satisfied to allow children to live out their lives outside of families” (Carr, 63). Sin, however, has destroyed this original design. Brokenness saturates many innocent lives. The church now has been beckoned to rally together with open arms, heeding Christ’s call to love and care for the orphans of the world. It is the only fitting response to the Gospel on every believer’s life.
|Johnny Beiler lives in Elnora, Indiana where he is currently pursuing certification in Biblical Counseling at Elnora Bible Institute. If he’s not busy working on homework, you may find him waiting tables at a local pizza shop in town. He enjoys interacting with people, hiking/enjoying nature, and diving into a good book with a cup of coffee close by. Johnny is passionate about seeing young men embrace godly masculinity as they are transformed by Christ through the Gospel story.|
Bohlender, Randy, and Kelsey Bohlender. The Spirit of Adoption. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2013. Print.
Carr, Johnny, and Laura Captari. Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans beyond Adopting. Nashville, TN: B & H Publish Group, 2013. Print.
Gospel Transformation Bible: Christ in All of Scripture, Grace for All of Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. Print.
Miller, Adam. “Panel: Adoption Part of the Great Commission.” Baptist Press. N.p., 09 July 2012. Web. 28 July 2017.
“On Understanding Orphan Statistics.” Christian Alliance for Orphans. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.