Why every Christian is called to orphan care
by Matt Capps
It was a bright morning in Ethiopia in late 2010 when our driver picked us up from the guesthouse and drove us through the rolling hills of Addis Ababa and up to a gated house full of orphaned children.
My wife, Laura, and I waited outside the gate while our agency worker went in to get Solomon. We’d anticipated this moment for 18 months. It wasn’t long before the gate opened, and we were handed our soon-to-be-adopted son. I was emotionally unprepared for what happened after we returned to the van and drove off. Solomon started crying. Our precious child anxiously screamed as we pulled him away from the only home he’d known.
After a few minutes, he calmed down, reached his little arms around Laura’s neck and tightened his grip. I can’t help but imagine that in that fearful moment he came to realize that Laura was going to be his mommy forever. As I look back at the genesis of our family, it was certainly moving to watch baby Solomon hold on to Laura for dear life. But what mattered most was Laura’s secure hold on Solomon.
If you’re like me, it’s often life lessons like this that allow us to grow deeper in our understanding of God’s love. I cannot begin to express the depth of emotion and insight our adoption has opened up for us in relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I now see why several theologians have argued that adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers, namely, because of its relational aspects.
Essentially, adoption is about belonging, and Paul shows us why in Galatians 4:6-7:
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
In these verses, we first see that we receive our identity as sons from the Father (4:6a). The Greek verb translated ‘adopt’ literally means to place or declare as a son. There is such assurance and security in the Father’s love for us because adoption is a declaration God makes about us. It is irreversible, dependent entirely upon His gracious choice.
Second, we learn of our intimacy with the Father (4:6b). The word ‘Abba’ is an Aramaic expression of familial endearment used by children toward their fathers. When we call, our Father is always accessible to His children and is never too preoccupied to listen and lovingly care for them.
We also receive our imperative from the Father to live as sons, not slaves (4:7a). When an orphaned child is placed into a new family, the adopted child inherits a new family narrative and is expected to live and act in accordance with that story and its ancestral heritage. In Paul’s world, royal children had to undergo extra training and discipline, which other children escaped, in order to fit them for their high destiny and expectations.
Lastly, Paul gives us a glimpse of our inheritance from the Father (4:7b). In the time Paul wrote this letter, it was the firstborn who inherited the father’s estate, and it was his right to determine how much each of his brothers and sisters received. Christ, as firstborn of all creation, holds all the rights to His Father’s kingdom, and He graciously makes us co-heirs with him. As the Father’s beloved children, we will enter into our inheritance and that of our co-heir, Jesus Christ.
In the new heavens and the new earth, God will be fully ours to enjoy and be satisfied forever. Our status as children of God is evident to all creation. In that moment, the very word orphan will be erased from the human vocabulary. As we long for that day, may we live in a way that reflects the beauty of our adoption in Christ.
This has direct implications on our call to orphan care. Our love for orphans will not only save the lives of vulnerable children, it also will give the lost world a tangible expression of the love of God. As Johnny Carr argues in his new book, Orphan Justice, Christians are clearly called to care for orphans, a group so close to the heart of Jesus.
Have you ever thought about gathering a team of people in your church to strategize and pray about how your church can become involved in orphan care? Carr provides many practical ways to help your church family catch a vision for orphan care in Orphan Justice. Here are a few.
- Encourage and bless families around you that have adopted children or couples who are foster parents.
- Educate yourself and others about the realities of orphan care and adoption.
- Talk with your pastors about long-term partnerships with international and local orphanages.
- Start an adoption fund at your church that helps pay adoption expenses of those in your church and those in your international partner churches.
There are so many ways to be involved. Not all of us are called to the same orphan ministry, but all of us must do something. If the Church is truly the most powerful force in the world, then we must not remain silent or still.