I have a crystal ball. My crystal ball will tell you exactly what God’s will is for your life. Are you ready? Here it is. Visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep yourself undefiled from the world. That’s how James, described what it means to have “pure religion” in James 1:27.
I fell in love with my wife at a Starbucks in Montgomery, Alabama. She was sharing with me her passion for caring for orphans. Her passion resonated with me like a giant gong that shakes your ear drums. After we married we adopted a three year old boy from Hungary.
I can’t really remember what we were thinking back then that led us to choose adoption as the means for caring for the fatherless … our once fatherless son. I mean, what James says is to “visit” the orphans in their affliction. What does that mean? Does that mean that Christians have to adopt orphans to be obedient? I don’t think so.
There are other ways of caring for the fatherless besides adoption. We could have started volunteering at a local orphanage or partnered with DHR in foster care. We could have given money to an adoption fund to help relieve the financial burden of someone else adopting. We could have planned a mission trip to a far away orphanage in Romania or India. We could have tried to start an orphanage ourselves. All of those things would have been good; and we may still do them … all of them.
But, of all the strategies for caring for the fatherless, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something special about adoption. Take our son for example. When we legally finalized his adoption, in a small town near Budapest, we had to choose a name for him. We chose to name him after me, and call him the second; Samuel Jacob McLure, II. I named him that. I gave him my name, because he is mine. He is my son, and I love him dearly. We didn’t adopt him because he is beautiful (though he is that). We didn’t adopt him because he is smart (though he is that). We didn’t adopt him because we knew he would always be obedient (because he isn’t). We didn’t adopt him because he has perfect health (because he doesn’t). We adopted him because we love him. I named him Samuel Jacob McLure, II, because I never want him to doubt that he is mine … I have called him by name.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine ….’” (Isaiah 43:1) You see, I think that when Christians care for the fatherless through adoption, they are being like their heavenly father in a special way. In Romans 9:4, Paul describes God’s dealings with his people, before the fulfillment of Christ as “the adoption.” We see this illustrated in a song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. ‘He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.’”
We can see this language even more explicitly describing our relationship to God the Father after the coming of Christ. Not only does our Heavenly Father wipe away our insurmountable debt, not only does he forgive those who were once his enemies and deserve death, not only does he brings us to a position of neutrality and peace; but he shocks the cosmos with a galaxy splitting explosion of love by bringing us, wretched and decrepit, into his family as sons. As sons? Yes, we who once were his enemies are now his sons. Never has such love and power been displayed in the universe. Never.
When we believe in the name of the Son of God, “we are given the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) It is through this “Spirit of adoption as sons” that we are able to cry out with the intimacy and intensity of a frightened toddler, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15) In fact, understanding that we are now adopted as sons is so central to grasping our new relationship with God that Paul tells us we were chosen “in him before the foundation of the world” and were “predestined … for adoption as sons.” (Ephesians 1) John focuses his audience’s attention on this adoption-as-sons-reality when he says, “[s]ee what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
And so we are … we, who once were enemies of God, are now the apple of his eye. When we care for the fatherless through adoption, with the motivation of being like our Heavenly Father who adopted us, we’re doing something special … we’re giving a picture to the world of the great love that our Heavenly Father offers to all who would receive.
So, my crystal ball … God’s will for your life … care for the fatherless. And, maybe through taking a few, and making them the apple of your eye.