Compassion that doesn’t flow out of knowledge of God doesn’t flow out for very long. It is a wonderful privilege to serve children who are in need, it is also hard work. This is part of why we are holding a conference called Together for Adoption in Pretoria on March 1 and 2. We want to provide a strong biblical basis for those who are energized for showing deep biblical love to those in need. In order to prepare us for the conference, I have been looking at several reasons from the Scripture orphan care is important for believers to think about.
We are trying to think through why the way we show mercy to the vulnerable came to James’s mind as a test of the reality of our relationship with God. And I think a fourth reason has to be because James knew part of why God saved us was so that we would be excited about doing good. Underline that word excited.
I found that, when I talk about our desire to work with orphans or vulnerable people, there are a lot of individuals, who aren’t always that excited about it. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to faze them that there are literally millions of orphans in this world. I’ve often thought about why. I struggle with why, to be honest.
Some of that could have to do with me. Maybe I’m just not describing it well.
Another could be that people get passionate about different things. I understand that. Really, I’m OK with people not being as excited about serving orphans as I am. I’m just not OK with them not being excited about sacrificially doing good at all. I’m not OK with that.
Have something God says is important that you are passionate about, emotional about. It’s not that we all have the same gifts. It’s not that we all have the same, exact callings. It’s not that we have all the same exact opportunities. God’s wired us differently for a reason. I get that.
But we all need to be passionate. We all need to be emotionally charged about doing some good in this world. Apathy is not an option, when God specifically says that he sent his son to die that we might be zealous. Titus 2:14, Paul takes us to the cross and he says, “Look at Jesus. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.”
Here it is…who are zealous for good deeds. He doesn’t just simply say he died that we might do good. He says that Jesus died that we might have a certain attitude towards laying our lives on the line for others. You could translate the word zealous as one who is deeply committed to something.
It is a synonym for enthusiast. One Greek dictionary defines it as, “Someone who is stirred to action by strong emotion.” Something is drastically wrong, when Christians are not emotionally charged about doing good works, because Jesus died on a cross that we might be emotionally charged about doing good works.
Fifth, a fifth reason, this is just such a fundamental test we find here in James of the reality of our religion has to do with the gospel.
Believing the gospel will move us to give to the vulnerable. There are different reasons to give to the needy. For example, one is the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God. John Calvin often talks about the image of God as being a reason for serving the poor.
But an even more important motivation is the gospel itself.
For one thing, when we really understand the grace God has shown us, it changes us into people who show that grace to others. As people who have been dearly loved by God and adopted by God, we spend our time enjoying Him, and looking at Him and looking at Him and the way He treated us, changes us into people who act like Him.
For another, as we trust that God is for us, it really takes away a lot of the excuses we make for not being involved in sacrificial giving. When we think we are out there on our own, we always have to look out for ourselves but when we realize the creator of the universe loves us the way He does, then it frees us up to be for the good of others.
As someone has said, “the love that adopted us becomes a love that cares for orphans. As Christians, we should be moved and empowered to visit the fatherless because God Himself visited us when we were without hope in this world. However we as Christians are involved in this, it should be Christianity’s vertical to horizontal movement that moves us out in compassion. Christians who believe the gospel should not only be the most loving, forgiving, welcoming people on the planet, we should also be the most orphan caring.”
One of the beautiful things about being involved in this kind of work, is that it is a way we can learn a lot about the gospel. I know, I I learn a lot about God from a boy who can’t talk.
One of our foster sons had a stroke in his mother’s womb and as a result has a difficult time talking, walking, really a difficult time doing much else besides smiling. He does a lot of that.
I was thinking about Muzi as I have been studying Ephesians 1 where Paul tells us that “in love God predestined us to be adopted as sons…” There is so much there to enjoy. In love, before the beginning of the world, God chose us to be part of his family, with all the rights and privileges of real sons.
But I guess what stood out to me more than ever before is the fact, I don’t bring anything to the table but sin. It is not like God adopted children into his family because he was needy, because he was up in heaven always wishing to have a child, because they would be intelligent conversation partners, because they were sweet and innocent, no, all these children had, all I had was sin and what’s more, it’s not just the adoption itself that is a gift, anything good that we bring to God now, is a gift as well! Our smiles, hugs, praises, are a themselves a gift God purchased for us at a cost.
And wow, think about the cost! He adopted children like us – at the cost of His own perfect son with whom He had an absolutely perfect relationship already. The basis of our involvement with the vulnerable must be truths like this from the gospel, propitiation through adoption, this strengthens us to help the vulnerable, even when we think we can’t afford it. We often try to help without sacrificing and suffering ourselves, but the truth is that’s how Jesus relieved us of our great burdens and the gospel motivates us to follow in His steps.