James 1:27 gives the Christian a call to visit the orphan in their affliction. The research of Showhope.org points out the stark reality that “[c]hildren are profoundly affected as their parents fall sick and die, setting them on a long trail of painful experiences often characterized by: economic hardship, lack of love, attention and affection, withdrawal from school, psychological distress, loss of inheritance, increased physical and sexual abuse and risk of HIV infection, malnutrition and illness, stigma, discrimination, exploitation, trafficking, and isolation.” (Citing, Global Partners Forum convened by UNICEF with support from UNAIDS. The Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS , July 2004, p 9. Global Strategic Framework: http://www.ovcsupport.net.)
Adoption is often not the appropriate method of visiting the orphan in their affliction. The appropriate method of caring for the fatherless may be foster care, community mentoring, Christian orphanages, or simply basic medical and nutritional needs.
However, when adoption is possible, there’s something really special about it. First, adoption gives a picture to the watching world of what God did for us in the Gospel. Christ came to save sinners, and one prominent metaphor the New Testament gives to describe this salvation is adoption: “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1)
Second, bringing previously orphaned children into our families through adoption helps fulfill one of God’s primary designs for marriage. In Malachi 2, God rebukes husbands for not being faithful to their wives: “[T]he LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (emphasis added) Truly, children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127) and the increase of godly offspring was one of God’s fundamental creation blessings: “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1)
Third, adoption offers an unparalleled opportunity for life-on-life discipling relationship. The facilitation of life-on-life discipling relationships is a worthy organizing principle of orphan care. James probably had a more earthy view in mind when he wrote is “pure-religion” equation. Thus, we should be meeting felt needs. However, the fundamental affliction of an orphan is the same as every person – separation from and enmity towards God. The only remedy is the Gospel, passed on through relationships, like a virus. Of the four methods for facilitating these relationships (community mentoring, orphanage, foster care, and adoption), adoption offers the greatest opportunity for intensity and longevity. Parenting, whether beginning in biology or adoption, is a 24/7, life-long commitment.
Visiting the orphan in their affliction through meeting physical needs, community mentoring, orphanages, and foster care is good. But, the reality is that these children often remain legal orphans. Sometimes, this is the best that we can humanly do. However, when the opportunity to care for a fatherless child presents itself in the form of adoption, Christian families should leap at the opportunity to do for someone else what God did for us through Christ – not leave us as orphans. (John 14)
… until there are no more orphans.
Photo by Shootingsnow.