Sunday, July 20, 2008

Orphans Vs. American Dream

Ok, so yep- I feel like I do a lot of preaching on here... and I want you to know that in reality I am talking to myself. The things I write about, it's my way of thinking through things- my way of working, changing- me. Today though I don't have to be the one preaching- this article does it for me. Definately something to think about... definately something to search our hearts over.

Orphans Vs. American Dream
By: Anthony Bradley

Why Does America Have Orphans If It Has Christian Churches?
America has nearly 115,000 orphaned kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. Some wonder how this is possible in a country with Christian families. Surely, there are 115,000 missional families in America, right? Missional families, for example, embrace the redemptive mission of God and practice "true religion" in their local communities (James 1:27). Missional Christians in America could eliminate the foster care system tomorrow if we would stop "shootin' up" with the American Dream (heroine) in order to get high on a lame life lived for the sake of comfort and ease.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world," writes James (1:27). As a matter of fact, the Bible has over 40 verses mandating God's people to look after orphans and the fatherless for various reasons.
According to the American Religious Identity Survey, conducted by the City University of New York, there are over 224 million Christians in the United States. So, why are there 115,000 orphans in a country that has over 224 million Christians?
Since God's people have always been called to live missionally we are not surprised to see that James is not saying anything new. "When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow" (Deuteronomy 24:21).
Let's break this down further. The Washington Times reports that there are about 65 million evangelicals in America. So, again, why are there 115,000 orphans in America's foster care system? Does this mean that there are 65 million people missing huge sections of their Bibles? Would someone please alert Crossway and Zondervan!
Historically, the early church was known for taking in their culture's orphans and the needy. This is such an ancient tradition of the church (except for post-1960s American evangelicals) that Pope Benedict XVI even talked about it in his first encyclical "God is Love." He writes, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word. . . Justin Martyr in speaking of the Christians' celebration of Sunday also mentions their charitable activity, linked with the Eucharist as such. Those who are able make offerings in accordance with their means, each as he or she wishes; the Bishop in turn makes use of these to support orphans, widows, the sick and those who for other reasons find themselves in need, such as prisoners and foreigners. The great Christian writer Tertullian relates how the pagans were struck by the Christians' concern for the needy of every sort."
Sadly, some of you are now more concerned about the fact that I quoted a Pope than you are about his actual point. Here's the deal: pagans were introduced to Jesus because Christians were taking care of the needy in obedience to Scripture. Taking care of the needy is not done only for the sake of evangelism. Practicing "true religion" is an extension of the kinds of Kingdom-oriented, salt and light, truth-bearing, grace-filled, Jesus-loving people who live to treat other people the same way God treats them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
We were all orphans and God adopted us in his family, remember? "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Rom 8:14-16). As such, the best possible home for an orphan is in a home where a family is following Jesus together as former orphans themselves.
If your church is not cultivating an ethos that practices "true religion" it may not be missional at all. It may be dying or sinking into a consumeristic, entertainment quicksand where people come to have their "felt needs" stroked. Your pastor might wear "cool" clothes, have a "cool" blog, or be in the process of trying to make God and Jesus androgynous but God seems to care that his people are being led by capable men who lead the rest of God's people in bringing the Kingdom to their local neighborhood in all its forms.
While not all Christians are gifted or equipped for taking in orphans it's pretty convicting that 65 million American evangelicals can't rescue 115,000 kids from an unstable hell. If the pagans in our neighborhoods aren't struck by how our churches are applying the Word of God to the needy it's possible that we aren't the real deal yet. May we all pray that our churches are soon as mature as James commends. The revolution continues. . .

Anthony recommends: Bethany Christian Services (a Christian adoption agency operating in the US and abroad; and Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children by Dr. Robert A. Peterson.

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