I have some sad news to share with everyone. You all remember Joseph, right?
And that we were all so excited to hear there was a family who wanted to adopt him? Well, for various reasons, that family feels that they need to stop the process. Joseph once again is waiting for a family who will make him their son. He ages out in a little over one year. If someone were to start now, this is still a very doable thing. Is this your son?
(Just to clarify... the following is in no way in response to the family! Just wanted to be sure I was clear.)
Of course all of this, and various other things which I don't blog about, have gotten me thinking, and I have to admit that I'm a wee bit teed-off about something. (That may perhaps be an understatement, you'll have to decide for yourself.) Every child who needs a family or some sort of stability in their lives is an opportunity provided by God to the church to act out in a tangible way the message of the Gospel. And in many, many ways, the church is failing. I can think of many individuals and a few churches which take this need to act on behalf of the helpless seriously, but more often than not I hear about how not only is the church not acting, but the church isn't even aware that it should be acting. The prevailing attitude is often that orphans are someone else's business or the few sainted individuals whom God has called to care for them, not the church as a whole. It is a nice little mission focus of a few individuals. And in the meantime, children suffer.
This is going to turn into a three-part post. I see the failure of the church to act on behalf of orphans as being a three part problem. The first is not understanding (or acknowledging) the centrality of caring for orphans and widows to the Gospel. The second is a tacit, and thus unacknowledged, reservation about children in general. And the third deals with money. We don't like to talk about money in the US, and we certainly don't like to talk about money when it comes to adoption, but the silence is damaging. It is hurting both the children who need homes and the families who would be willing to adopt.
Throughout the Gospels, heck, through the whole Bible, caring for the segments of society that are powerless and often penniless is what is commanded. The converse of that is also true. Nothing brings on God's anger so much as oppressing or ignoring the powerless. And if we're talking about the powerless, the orphan and the widow were right up there in Biblical times... and in our own. You all know the verses, but I'll repeat them again. From James 1:25-27: "But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseverers, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
We can't ignore that. We can't make that into one of many good things that people do in the church. To do God's work and show God's love means that we have to do this. And it will be messy and painful and costly. We do it for the least of these among us because this is what God did for us. And it was messy and painful and costly.
Not every orphan will be able to be adopted into a family, and for those who cannot, we need to support them in whichever way is appropriate. But many orphans are adoptable. Churches need adoptive families in them. And churches need to support those families and encourage others to join them. Without actual adoption in our midst, how can anyone begin to understand the depth and meaning of the passages where God tells us He has adopted us to be His sons and daughters? Without walking through adoption personally, or coming along side a family and supporting them as they adopt, these verses hold very little significance. They are a nice thought which makes us feel good. But once you have personal experience with adoption, they become incredibly powerful.
To adopt is a legal term meaning that a child which was not biologically related to a set of parents, an 'other', becomes the same. Everything that would be granted to a biological child is now granted to the adopted one. They are no longer 'other' but have a place where they belong. This sounds fairly easy and straightforward, but it's not. Adoption occurs because there has been some tragedy, some loss. These hurts can be deep and it can be difficult to love this very hurt person. We develop a new sense of what it means to love and at the same time we see God's love in a new and different way. We come to God because of a tragedy and loss; because of mankind's descent into sin. We are filled with sin and are very imperfect. But God loves us. God loves us with all of our hurts and pain. God loves us no matter how much we may rage at Him. To see adoption played out in our congregations is to see a physical manifestation of God's love for us.
Not everyone is called to adopt, but I'm sure there are many more who are called than who heed. But everyone, every single Christian, is called to do something to care for the orphans and widows. This is not an option and the church needs to stop acting as though it is. The people of the church should be filled with so much grief over the plight of these children, regardless of where they live, that they cannot rest until all the children have been helped and those who can be are set in families. God promises to set the lonely in families, but if the families have not been taught and encouraged to receive the lonely, then how can they even fathom the idea. If a family does not feel supported, overwhelmingly, by their church family, they may feel incapable of the task before them. We do so much talking and meeting and discussing in the church that we forget we should be doing. It's really what James was talking about. Stop talking about being all religious and about what God wants from His people and instead just start doing something. Anything. Just do it.
And Joseph still needs a family. And Vincent. And Kennedy. And... And... And...