Saturday, June 12, 2010

Everyone Needs A Family

by Kay Warren

Published first in Catalyst Monthly February 2010

“Who will take care of my children when I die?” she asked in a whisper. “No one will want them because they know I am dying of AIDS.” Flora’s tears flowed, her face a mixture of anguish and fear. She was the first dying mother I had ever encountered and I had no answers for her; I was nearly mute in the presence of her suffering. My assurances that I would pray for her and her children were woefully inadequate. How could my words of intercession be enough to cover the needs of her soon-to-be-orphaned young children? Her face, her heartrending question, and the certainty that Flora is no longer here haunts me seven years later. What has happened to her precious babies? Did a kind relative open her home to them? Was a neighbor brave enough to overcome the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS to welcome these little ones? Did a family in their church listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and make space at their table for three more hungry mouths? Or are those three children growing up in an institution – an orphanage - that will keep their bodies alive but give them no long-term hope for a normal life? Or even worse: are they on the unforgiving streets of Maputo, Mozambique, scrounging out an existence? Or worst of all – did their status as vulnerable orphans lead to an untimely death?

While most of us give very little thought to the 138 million orphans in the world, God is passionately concerned for them. The fact that a child is orphaned due to AIDS every 14 seconds rips at his heart. The reality that 25% of the population of Nigeria is orphans grieves him. The status of Flora’s three children is on his mind every day.

In Proverbs 23:10-11 (NEB), God reveals himself as a powerful guardian for orphans and vulnerable children:

“Don’t move the boundaries or encroach on the land of orphans; they have a powerful guardian who will take up their cause against you.”

In this passage, God uses the example of stealing land from an orphan to reveal how he feels about them. To steal land from a neighbor is obviously wrong, but to take land from a fatherless child is reprehensible in God’s eyes! As their powerful guardian, It makes him furious! Other translations call him their advocate, their redeemer, their champion, their savior, their deliverer, the All-Powerful God. More than Super Man or Iron Man, they have GOD as their guardian and He will “take up their cause against you!” Don’t be fooled by the nice language. God is sending out a warning: He’s gonna do some serious butt-kicking to anyone who takes advantage of, hurts, manipulates, steals from, exploits, terrorizes, wounds, or in any way hurts vulnerable children. They are under his special protection: he calls himself the Father to the Fatherless (Ps. 68:5 NLT) and He will avenge any wrong done to them. You do NOT want to be on the wrong side of God when it comes to orphans – He is fanatical in his passion and love for them! So much so that how we treat orphans and widows is a litmus test of our spiritual life and our love for God.

James 1:27 (NLT) “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

It’s not an option, folks. Caring for orphans and vulnerable children is not just for a few people; this is not a matter of economics or spiritual gifts or personal interests. This is not for some of us, but for ALL of us. Having a heart that is tender towards children without a family is a test of our love for God. If we say we love God but do nothing on the behalf of the world’s vulnerable children, we’re kidding ourselves; we’re ignorant and misinformed. You simply cannot love God without developing a passion for orphans.

Scripture also teaches that what God has done for us spiritually, He desires for us to physically. God adopted each of us when we were spiritual orphans, without a home, a family, a father. We were vulnerable, unable to earn our way into his family, and had nothing going for us. But, because of his unbelievable, amazing mercy and grace, we are now a part of his forever family, equal heirs with our older brother, Jesus. We have been adopted; we know the joy of belonging. From grateful hearts, we must now look at our vulnerable little brothers and sisters and seek a home and a family for them.

Russell Moore says, “Adoption is not just about couples who want children – or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.”

Not everyone should adopt, but more should than do. Every family should at least ask the question, “God, do you want our family to foster or adopt a child?” How do you know the answer unless you’ve asked the question?

One hundred and thirty-eight million children – perhaps Flora’s three are among them – are waiting for us who name the name of Jesus to take them home.

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