Many assert that there is an established anti-adoption culture within Australia. Historically, our involvement in adoption and orphan care hasn’t always had a healthy or positive outcome for the children, their biological families or the adoptive families. Recent moves at federal level, supported by private initiatives such as National Adoption Awareness Week are seeking to improve upon this by promoting a positive approach to adoption. This not only provides education to adoptive parents to assist them in learning about the factors of abandonment, attachment and identity of the child but also extends to, where possible, support for the biological families of the children.
Adoption and orphan care is far to complex to resolve in a simple blog post. However what begs to question, for me at least, is why Australian Evangelical Churches and Christians are not more interested, involved and committed to orphan care. Perhaps, in part, it stems from a reaction to the efforts of various social and welfare groups, that due to their focus on serving the community by way of providing aid, comfort and assistance to alleviate temporal suffering, the gospel message of Jesus has been diluted and in many cases dissolved completely. After all, they reason, what good is accomplished if you provide a homeless person a bed for the night if they later die anyway and spend eternity in the torments of hell. I once had this exact attitude. When working in Africa as a Bible Teacher and Church Planter I became callous and cynical to the requests for medical aid, touting that, “I’d rather preach the gospel to them than give them chloroquine so they can be relieved of malaria symptoms and die later and go to hell.” Yet, as a wiser, older Christian pointed out to me when making my progress (!) reports later, “If you had given them medicine they might have lived longer to hear and respond to the gospel.” I had completely missed the point of mercy and welfare. I was the arrogant, unloving priest and Levite, that crossed to the other side of the road so I wouldn’t be tainted by those I esteemed worse off than I.
Attitudes like this also deaden our concern for children at risk, vulnerable to illness and disease and the orphaned in need of compassion, care, love, nurture, healing and restoration. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that if you preach the gospel correctly you are going to be accused of heresy, licentiousness and lawlessness. (Commentary on Romans 6, ch1) Likewise, I would contend that a proper proclamation and application of the gospel by living a life of extravagant service and generosity, such as poverty relief and care of children, will result in accusations of diluting or neglecting the gospel in favour of social action.
So be it! If you have a genuine commitment to the gospel you will relish the opportunity to reenact the redemption and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ rather than be constrained by the taunts of legalistic, Pharisaical, fundamentalism.
Mistreatment of vulnerable children was tantamount to the grossest of sins in the Old Testament. It belied a selfish, hateful cruelty that contradicted God’s character, justice, mercy, love and compassion. Describing genuine faith in Christ in the New Testament, James says:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world ~ James 1:27
A fair-dinkum commitment to the gospel, one that is theologically robust and historically orthodox, will be evident in our Churches when we have Christians, who are confident in God’s love for them and are compelled to love others likewise. This is no more evident than when that love is manifest in the protection and nurture of orphans and vulnerable children.
Saddleback Orphan Care Initiative suggests 6 things Churches and Christians can begin to do immediately that will increase your involvement in helping orphans.
- Open your eyes both locally and globally. Pray for orphaned children, care for them, and make a place in your heart – and, Lord willing, in your home – for them. Study Scripture and know God’s heart for the orphan.
- Rely on the local church as God’s answer for the orphan. Create orphan care ministries in your church that give everyone the opportunity to engage.Create partnerships with churches worldwide, affirming solutions from indigenous churches.
- Prevent children from becoming orphaned through advocacy, HIV care and treatment, and general health and welfare efforts toward family reunification when appropriate.
- Help with relief, and focus on long-term solutions that are sustainable and wholistic emphasizing education and community development.
- Affirm the family as the best place for the healthy growth and development of a child and promote adoption as God’s idea for the health and healing of a child.
- Negotiate ways for mobilizing ordinary people to become part of the life of an orphan. Not everyone can or should adopt, and not every child is eligible for adoption, but every person can care for a child who is vulnerable or orphaned.
How, where and when will you respond?