Have you ever looked at a Where's Waldo book? Or an optical illusion that it takes 5 minutes of staring at before you see the Mona Lisa trapped in there somewhere? Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by the big picture to the degree that we feel the details are insignificant...and after a while you might just stop looking.
I've been throwing around alot of thoughts about the worldwide "orphan crisis" lately. Here are some semi-accurate statistics to tease your brain...just to bring you up to speed to where my thoughts are headed.
- According to Unicef, there are 145 million orphans worldwide
- A child dies in the world every 5.2 seconds.
- If orphans were a country by population they would rank 8th in the world!
That's the Big Picture! I think a typical response to this kind of information is to say (1) I feel really guilty for the life I have. I'm never shopping again and my family is eating off the dollar menu...forever! or (2) Those numbers are staggering. I'm not wealthy so I can't make a difference anyway. I might as well keep doing what I'm doing.
I'll admit that very often I fall into the feeling guilty all the time category. Especially living in Zambia. But what does that initial guilt find it's healing in? It doesn't help anyone to just NOT do what we were doing before. Instead, what is it that we are supposed to do? What is a Biblical response to the orphan crisis?
- James 1:27 "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."
- Matthew 25:34 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
That is some pretty weighty stuff. Will definately shake any comfortable complacency you had going.
The Details: Each child has a face, a name, a history...often tainted by tragedy. I am an adoption advocate, but let me start by saying that adoption is not the ONLY biblical response to children in need. James (the brother of Christ) SAW the beauty of adoption first hand. Joseph was NOT Jesus' biological father, but he loved him as his own. We who have been redeemed by Christ are NOT of a holy bloodline until adopted into His love. Adoption is beautiful!
But don't ever consider adoption because you feel guilty. Don't give up earthly pleasures out of a sense of unworthiness. Don't try to do something big just because you think it will make you feel better or because you don't feel like you are doing "enough". That's a man-centered approach. If you do you'll only be desiring the praise of men and right standing before your holy judge which if in Christ you already have! I believe what the Bible calls for is RADICAL devotion to the savior which many times leads to a radical undertaking of caring for the needy. But the devotion for the savior MUST come first!
The same Jesus that said all that about the "least of these" also said "For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them, but you will not always have me." (Mark 14:7)
The same Jesus that said "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."(Matt. 22:39) also got invited to wedding feasts, enjoyed fellowship with his disciples, and rested. He was poor, no doubt. And had "no place to lay his head." But he never sinned...so he never felt guilty for eating a meal while someone down the street was hungry. He was also generous...he spontaneously fed over 9,000 people because they were hungry while listening to him speak. Jesus never turned a blind eye to suffering, but he never felt guilty for it's existence either.
One thing we have to understand is that unless we are living with no shelter, no food, no clothing, and dying of some incurable disease someone will always have less than us. It is true that we cannot rescue the entire world from poverty, or disease, or fatherlessness, or pain, or even hell. So we have to learn to live with ourselves and desire to serve Christ where we are. But the beauty is in the details. What can we do? Instead of focusing on the overwhelming big picture and what we CAN'T do...what CAN we do to be more like Christ today?
The heart and soul of many of the verses that us adoptive parents LOVE to quote is not even adoption! It's a mandate to CARE about the suffering of others and seek to relieve it for the glory of God. This is a Biblical view of the orphan crisis. DO SOMETHING...even if you think it's small and insignificant. It's a beautiful detail in a bigger picture. Do it out of love for the one who did not leave you abandoned.
If you can't or simply don't want to care for orphans through adoption don't feel bad about it! But can you pray for someone who is? Can you be their shoulder to cry on? Can you take them a meal when they get home? Can you sponsor a child to go to school? Can you be a foster parent or a respite parent for those who are fostering? I have to say that I have been beyond blessed to have so many friends praying for me. You are caring for the orphan!!!
There are so many different ways of living out "loving our neighbor" and no one person can do them all and do them well. It's ok to find your "niche" but keep in mind that it's not the only one out there. Loving your neighbor looks like a lot of different things. It MAY mean a lifestyle change or giving up something in order to serve others. It might mean adopting a child. It might mean volunteering at a shelter or having a plan for encountering the homeless so you don't just have to look away when you drive by their sign. It may mean restructuring your budget to support missionaries or the persecuted church abroad. The important thing is to serve Christ and to strive to do it well. Make it personal. Make it passionate.
After living in Zambia I can pretty much say that I have no desire to ever be a missionary and LIVE in another country, but man I admire those who are and I can say that I will pray more fervently for them and seek ways to encourage them more personally. We are all members of one body who function in different capacities. You might be an eye and I might be a toenail, but all those parts do make a beautiful big picture, don't ya think?