Friday, January 25, 2008

Listen in to the orphan heart

Hey guys, here are some links to some talks I've done on the orphan heart. If you've been reading some of what I've written you'll see some obvious overlap. If you haven't, then no worries either.

The first was a sermon given at Grace Community Chapel (it's their podcast website) and the other two were me sitting down at Shoney's with my buddie Moles who is the pastor of that church. Feedback is most welcome!

http://gracespace.podbean.com/2008/01/22/the-orphaned-heart/

http://gracespace.podbean.com/2008/01/24/lots-orphaned-heart/

http://gracespace.podbean.com/2008/01/24/the-fatherhood-of-god/

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Part 3: Ex 22- God as the Defender of the orphan and widow

Imagine if one of the first things you were taught after professing faith in Jesus was that God wants you to care for orphans and widows. Imagine that you came across James 1:27 while reading the Bible or you heard it preached in church. You might wonder what was so special about orphans and widows that God would call caring for them “true religion.” Perhaps a mature Christian would point out that the command flows out of the Fatherhood of God Himself to us as those who were spiritually fatherless, but have now been adopted into the family of God (Gal. 4:4-7). You would learn very quickly to take seriously the call to live out the faith by caring for the fatherless and widows in your midst. In ancient Israel God wanted to make it clear to His people right at the beginning of their relationship with Him that they had a responsibility to care for orphans and widows in their midst as an outflow of the Person of God Himself as the defender of the orphan and widow.
God’s command to Israel in Exodus 22:22 takes place in the context of His entering into covenant1 with His people, so before we can look at the command itself, we must first understand the context of that command. When God took Israel to be “a people for Himself” in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, the Scriptures say that He brought them out of Egypt “with a mighty hand” by the Passover and then through the Red Sea to the foot of Mt. Sinai. It is here on Mt. Sinai that Moses then went up to meet with God, and it is here that God affirmed the covenant that He was making with his people saying: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:5-6a).” In Exodus 19 God laid out the fact that he was entering into a covenant relationship with Israel that had expectations and stipulations. They were to be a kingdom of priests (representing the nations to God and teaching them about God), a holy nation (representing God’s holiness to the nations), and they were to obey and keep the covenant (which by faith upheld the other two).
The covenant was confirmed in chapter 24 after the reading of the Book of the Covenant to the people (24:7). When they heard the stipulations of the covenant, the people declared: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” This proclamation was then followed by sacrifice and the shedding of blood.2 God then said to Israel through Moses, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words (24:8b).” “All these words” were the words of the Book of the Covenant that was read a few verses earlier in the hearing of the people. So what was this “Book of the Covenant” and what does it have to do with orphans?
Up to this point, the Book of the Covenant consisted of those laws that were given in chapters 20-23 after God called Israel into covenant (Ex. 19) and before he ratified the covenant (Ex. 24). It functioned as the initial stipulations of the covenant- what the people were to obey, beginning with the Ten Commandments and then other laws that unfolded the various forms that this obedience would constitute. These laws included various topics ranging from laws about alters, slaves and restitution, to laws about social justice, Sabbath and festivals. At this point in the giving of the Law there was no mention of sacrifices or instructions for the tabernacle (this came shortly after and would continue to unfold throughout the Pentateuch with the Law). Yet these laws were specifically chosen to make up the initial “Book of the Covenant” for a purpose- they revealed God Himself (the Lawgiver) as well as His expectations for His people to reflect His nature through obedience.3
This is the context of our passage at hand. Right at the beginning of His relationship with Israel, within the initial “Book of the Covenant,” God said to His people: “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless (Ex. 22:22-23).”
I can remember the first time I read this passage; I gasped! Did God really say THAT! That if orphans and widows were mistreated and cried out to God, then He Himself would kill them, leaving their wives to be widows and their children fatherless! That is what the command says. The question must be asked then: Why such severity? The answer to this question lies within the heart of the Lawgiver, but becomes clearer when seen in the light of the nations around Israel in the Ancient Near East. The protection of the widow and the orphan was the constant claim of the “ideal king” of the Ancient Near East. In their boasting, the ancient kings were portraying themselves as “ideal” in their rule and just in all their ways.4 In a very real sense, without meaning to, these kings were at least pretending to reflect the nature of the one true ideal King.
In Israel (and the world) Yahweh is the ideal King who truly cares for the plight of the widow and the orphan as their true defender and protector. Yet this King has chosen to care for the widow and the orphan through his people- those in relationship with Him, those who will reflect His own character and holiness. If the people fail to care for the orphan and widow, the character of Yahweh’s own nature as the defender and protector of the fatherless would be compromised, as God had called Israel to reflect His own nature in the keeping of the Covenant. Therefore, failure to accurately reflect the nature of God in properly caring for orphans and widows would bring severe punishment!
God made it clear to Israel right at the beginning of His relationship with them that He takes seriously the care for the fatherless and widow! He bound the care of the fatherless and widow right into the fabric of the covenant itself within his covenant expectations of His people. When they cried out with one voice in Exodus 24, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!”, they understood the magnitude of what they were saying, and the depths of God’s heart toward the fatherless and widows in their midst.
This passage holds three main truths for Christians today, each with very specific application and all three pointing to and unfolding the beauty of the Gospel itself.
1. God Himself is the defender of the Fatherless and Widow. There is something about this group of people that evokes God’s heart above the general category of “poor and needy.” The Book of the Covenant speaks in many places about the poor and needy, but it is here that God’s own character is seen to be linked to the fatherless and widow, where He shows that He Himself will move on their behalf. It will be unveiled later by David in Ps. 68:5 that God is the “Father to the fatherless” and the “defender of the widow” and this passage is the first to point us there.
The Gospel reveals that each of us is born spiritually “fatherless”, dead in sin (Eph. 2:2), and in desperate need of One who will move on our behalf. It is God who has taken the initiative in our salvation and drawn us to Jesus (Jn. 6:37, 44). This is the very heart of the Gospel itself- that God is not watching our pain and suffering, our struggles against sin and injustice on this groaning planet from far away. God is not ill-concerned and removed from our pain. Instead, He is near to us, concerned, and filled with compassion and mercy for those who are in need, especially the fatherless and widow.
2. God’s heart is toward those who recognize their need for Him. This is found in the statement, “If…they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.” If the fatherless and widow are mistreated or taken advantage of but do not cry out to Yahweh then they suffer in vain and without hope. The promise is to those who “cry out” to Yahweh who then Himself will move on their behalf. This is the heart of the Gospel as shown in the Beatitudes. When Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the poor” he is not pointing to blessing for the sake of poverty in itself (whether physical or spiritual), but blessing unto those who know they need God! “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” It’s the same for the fatherless (physical or spiritual). One could say, “Blessed are the fatherless and blessed are the fatherless in spirit, for they shall find their Father.” The blessing is not to the fatherless for the sake of the fatherless, but to the fatherless that recognize their need of God! The same could be said about the widow. The Gospel is not for the righteous, but for those who know they need God (see Luke 18:9-14)!
3. God expects His people to bring His care (His Fatherhood) to the fatherless and widow. God still brings His Fatherhood to the fatherless through those of us who bring His compassion and care to these needy ones. This is the heart of James 1:27 and the heart of the Gospel itself- the very outflow of the person and nature of God being made manifest in us (see II Cor. 3:18). God made it clear to Israel right at the beginning of His relationship with them that they were to care for the fatherless and widow as a reflection of His character, and He makes it clear to us that we are to care for the fatherless in our midst.
The care of the fatherless is more than just a “good thing,” but is grounded in the Gospel itself, the good news that sin, death and Satan have been defeated on the cross and that God adopts us as His very own sons and daughters. This is a greater adoption than any of us could picture even if we adopt a child into our own families (which is great!). May our Father use us to bring His Fatherhood to the many physical and spiritual orphans in our midst, even as we bask in our own adoption as God’s sons and daughters!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thoughts...Part 2 (Lot)

Thoughts on God’s Heart for Orphans and Widows by Keith McFarland
Part 2: Abraham and Lot- the journey of an orphan heart

The book of James makes it clear that Christians today are to care for the fatherless in their midst, yet the task of working with the fatherless can be quite daunting. Whether one is in the bush of Uganda or in a Sunday School classroom in Chicago, there remains no greater challenge then to get into the heart of an orphan. The challenge is especially tough when the life of an orphan has been characterized by hurt, pain, lack of discipline and lack of love that seems to manifest itself in the present in a lack of trust, disobedience, selfishness, and all out rebellion. Often times it’s easier to remove these children or “distractions” from the rest of a group or just ignore them all together, yet this serves only to reinforce the hurts and pains that fatherless children carry in their hearts. They are simply acting out of their orphaned heart. What is one to do? The Biblical story of Abraham and Lot provides a powerful beginning for understanding the heart of an orphan as well as the place where that heart must be led if true healing is to take place.
We are told in Genesis 12 that God chose Abraham and directed him to leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s house, to go to a land that God would show him! In this very command, God was calling Abraham to lay down his identity in the land of his birth and as a son in his father’s house, and to trust God alone for both his identity and provision!
Not surprisingly, the heart of an orphan is often besieged with the same issues Abraham faced; only theirs is not by choice. An orphan has lost one or both parents, thus a part of their identity, who they are, is lost. One friend of mine here in Uganda has never known his father, and he spent the first 25 years of his life struggling to know who he is or where he came from. He felt purposeless and empty, as if he were a nobody! Couple this loss of identity with the loss of familiar surroundings and familiar people, especially family, and most children retreat into themselves, build walls of protection, and become fearful of any kind of change. This is the heart of an orphan.
God, however, did not call Abraham to be an orphan but to find his identity, provision, and protection in Him. God promised Abraham three things in return for his faith and obedience: to give him land, to make him into a nation, and that blessing would be to him and through him to all the families of the earth (12:2-3). Abraham believed God and obeyed what God told him to do. It was Abraham’s faith in the promises of God that would result in his faith being “credited to him as righteousness (15:6)”, thus making Abraham the father of all who would then follow his faith. Abraham’s faith must be the beginning point for any orphan seeking to find true healing, and this faith in God must be seen as the cornerstone for a new identity found in Christ (II Cor. 5:17).
When Abraham set out from Ur, he took along his nephew Lot, who was a physical orphan from Abraham’s brother Haran (11:28, 31). Lot, too, was leaving behind any kind of identity, familiarity, and security that he might have had in Ur. Lot journeyed with Abraham as he entered the land of Canaan where God appeared to Abraham and affirmed that this was the land his offspring would inherit (12:7). Lot watched as Abraham built alters to the Lord, and as he called on the name of the Lord near Bethel. Lot saw God’s faithfulness to Abraham during the time of famine as they made their first journey to Egypt, and as God afflicted Pharaoh’s household for taking Sarah into his home. Lot watched the blessing of God come to Abraham as he left Egypt and returned to the land of Canaan rich in livestock, silver and gold (13:1). And Lot himself was rewarded for his faithful following of Abraham, as he too came with flocks and herds and tents of his own! Surely Lot had been blessed as he walked in relationship with Abraham and Abraham’s God! But having material possessions (security) does not remove the heart of an orphan.
A crucial thing happened in the lives of Abraham and Lot after they came out of Egypt and returned to Canaan, near to Bethel where Abraham had first made an altar and called on the Name of the Lord. Abraham and Lot had grown too large in possessions, flocks, and herds, so that the land could not support both of them. It was necessary for them to part ways. Why? Because the Canaanites and Perizzites were also dwelling in the land and probably held the best parts! What would Abraham do? Would he tell Lot to “get off his land,” as the land was promised to Abraham and his descendents! Would he send Lot packing back to Ur? Would he take first choice of the land and tell Lot to dwell where he could? NO! Abraham demonstrated amazing faith in the promises of God and in God as his provider as he allowed Lot to choose whatever part of the land he wanted to settle in, himself taking from what was left over.
Lot, on the other hand, demonstrated his own “orphan spirit” when he “lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord (13:10)” and selfishly chose to dwell there, moving his tents as far as Sodom.
The author then inserts an interesting note: “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord (13:13).” The choosing of a well-watered valley would be very important for supporting large flocks and herds, yet it is Lot’s choice to move toward Sodom that stands out further to the reader and that the author of Genesis is stressing. Lot, who had been blessed by the God of Abraham, made his choice based on what externally seemed best for his own benefit (Sodom would have provided excellent trade for him), but in the long run would have disastrous consequences.
This aspect of choosing in the short term what seems “best” even when it carries negative consequences for the future is a typical thing for an orphan. A few years ago an orphan walked me through his own struggle to overcome what he called “the orphan spirit” or “the heart of an orphan.” His greatest challenge was his own heart that was naturally very selfish (protective of what he had or could get). Being exposed to the pain of losing his parents, the loss of identity, and the insecurity that followed him, led to a survival mentality (what can I get now?) that told him he can never have enough, even when he was living in plenty. This becomes very relevant when dealing with Lot and his choice of land and eventual move into Sodom, and it becomes very relevant when dealing with the hearts of fatherless children anywhere in the world!
In contrast to Lot, Abraham’s choice to give Lot the best of the land demonstrated his faith in God, as well as his contentment with what God had given to him and his trust in God for all of his needs, present and future. This faith was immediately rewarded by God “after Lot had separated from him (13:14).” God appeared to Abraham and affirmed His earlier promise to give Abraham’s offspring the land of Canaan forever. This time, however, God invited Abraham to walk around the land and “explore” what was to be his inheritance. Abraham’s identity and trust was in God alone as His provider. This rest in God as provider for all needs (not necessarily wants) is where the heart of an orphan must be led.
Another contrast between Abraham and Lot is set forth in chapter 14. After the defeat of Sodom in the battle of the kings, the city was sacked and all material possessions were taken, as well as the people! The text states clearly that “they also took Lot…who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions…(14:12).” It’s a bit surprising to find Lot now living in Sodom, not just near Sodom, which reveals the appeal that the city had for him, despite the wickedness taking place there. The appeal for physical protection and increase in provision was too strong of a draw for Lot. Despite the fact that he was wealthy and had good land to support him and his family, he was willing to compromise living in the midst of wickedness for what would prove to be false “security.”
Abraham, on the other hand, rested in God as his protector (remember Egypt?). He was just as vulnerable as Lot, yet remained faithful to God and content in his provision and secure in his protection. This security in God’s protection is demonstrated when he gathered together his 318 trained men and routed the kings who had taken Lot captive, bringing back “all the possessions, and also…Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people (14:16).”
Abraham was then presented with an interesting offer that will again challenge where his trust for provision truly rested. The king of Sodom offered Abraham all of the recovered possessions! If Abraham accepted the offer, the wealth he would amass would set Abraham apart as even higher than the kings he had just saved! What a temptation for a man wandering in a country not his own, especially when it was promised to him by God Himself! On top of this, all of Lot’s possessions would be his as well! Yet Abraham, the man of faith, wanted no one to be able to say, “I made Abraham rich (14:23).” Abraham refused the offer because he trusted in God alone for his identity, provision, protection and for the fulfillment of His Word to him. The heart of an orphan must be led to find security in the protection of God the Father, as well as for identity and provision.
God immediately responded to Abraham’s trust in Him by appearing to him in a vision. God’s words to Abraham ring loudly across time and space, through the pages of Scripture: “Fear not, Abraham, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great (15:1).” Abraham had demonstrated faith that he believed this to be true, and God removed any possible doubt that might creep into Abraham’s mind, even as he remained childless in awaiting God’s fulfillment of His word. God promised Abraham an heir from his own body and then sealed the covenant He was making with Abraham by passing through the sacrifice he required Abraham to make- God Himself would uphold His Covenant! Abraham could get no greater security than God’s own Covenant promise! This is the same assurance God gives to those who trust in the death of His Son Jesus!
Lot’s final appearance in the book of Genesis is a tragic one that occurs at least 13 year later. He did not learn from the earlier defeat of Sodom and Abraham’s rescue. Lot remained in the city with his family, the lone righteous man in the midst of such wickedness, tormented in soul (cf II Pet. 2:7-8)! Yes, Lot was righteous, he believed in Abraham’s God, yet he failed to lead his family in the righteousness of the God of Abraham, which ultimately, would cost him his family. Lot’s wife was tragically destroyed for “looking back” as they fled the city, his daughters’ fianc├ęs were killed in Sodom (what was he doing allowing them to marry into such wickedness in the first place!?) and his daughters themselves manifested the perversion of the city through their own unrighteous acts of committing incest with their father (19:30-38). Tragically, nothing more is heard of Lot.
Abraham, on the other hand, was informed of the coming destruction of Sodom. Just before Abraham was made aware of God’s plans, God says of Abraham: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him (18:19, italics mine).” God knew that Abraham would lead his household in following God’s ways through living lives characterized by righteousness and justice. This is God’s heart for His people!
What a picture of where the heart of an orphan must be brought from and to if genuine healing is to take place and the orphan spirit truly overcome! The only hope for a fatherless child is to be brought to a place where they find their complete identity, provision, and protection in God alone, and where they are leading others in these too! A child must be brought beyond the point of belief in Jesus as his or her Savior- though this is the beginning point! Their hearts must be brought to day to day submission before this Father who has revealed Himself as the “Father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5)” and who through the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give them new life and will adopt them into His own family (see Romans 8:15-16, Eph. 1:3-6, and Galatians 4:4-7)! This is where the orphan heart is set free and where true healing takes place and where vision for some day leading a family is found. Yes, Lot had faith in Abraham’s God, but he failed to walk fully in the faith of Abraham and he failed to lead his family in that faith expressed in righteousness. In many ways, Lot always remained an orphan, while Abraham knew his Dad.
After searching for 25 years, the friend that I mentioned earlier accepted Jesus as his Savior and found new life in God. Sadly, his orphaned heart remained restless and he found himself struggling in his identity and struggling to lead his family. He attended church, but wasn’t experiencing the joy he saw in others. Even after his wife gave him a son, he was insecure at how to father this gift from God. After his wife’s tragic death as a result of AIDS, he was forced to be the sole caretaker of his son, yet as his own heart struggled, so did his parenting and so did his son. It wasn’t until three years later that my friend made the most exciting discovery of his life- God is His Father! Suddenly, his struggle to know who he is came to an end- he is a child of God! He has found his identity in God as his Father, provider, and protector, and has sense been leading his son in these things as well!
In reality, whether or not we are physical orphans, we are ALL born spiritual orphans, dead in sin and separated from God. All of us face the challenge to live like Abraham or Lot. And many of us live the Christian life like my friend, with Jesus in the heart but an orphan in the soul. Life is lived in slavery, not in sonship. May we all come to find our identity, provision, and protection in God alone as sons and daughters of the King, and may we lead both physical and spiritual orphans to this well-spring of life!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Thoughts On God's Heart for Orphans and Widows- Part 1

Part 1- The Mandate of James
Christians today know that it is a good thing to care for orphans and widows. Because of the church’s commitment to provide both missionaries and funding in needy cross-cultural and urban settings, ministries to orphans like New Hope Uganda can exist. The global AIDS pandemic has created more awareness and more compassionate care for the growing “orphan” problem all over the world. Yet, when asked if there is any biblical responsibility to care for orphans, many Christians can not get beyond Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The only New Testament verse that speaks directly of the church’s responsibility to care for orphans is James 1:27, which says: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”1 Though this verse is very powerful, it is often “passed over” without grasping the full implication of what James is saying.
If we are going to understand James 1:27 and its implications for us today, then we need to have a good context of the book as a whole. James was writing to mainly Jewish Christians scattered among the nations (1:1) who were facing trials of different kinds (1:2-8, 12-15; 5:7-12). There were Christians who claimed to have faith, but in their very deeds denied the faith they claimed, either through lack of action (1:22; 2:15-16), or through mistreatment of the poor, needy, and each other (2:2-4; 4:1-2). This is why James’ argument about faith and works in 2:14-26 is so central to the book, as James is very concerned that Christians live out the very faith they profess.
In the immediate context of James 1:27, he explains that “true” religion, or genuine living out of the faith, consists of being a doer who acts on the word of God! This is contrasted with those who hear the word and do nothing. These are deceptive hearers and their religion is “worthless”(1:22-25).
James writes in verse 26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” The emphasis here is on the external speech as it relates to deception in the heart. This is because the tongue reveals the inner heart (cf. Mt. 12:34), so it would be foolish to think one was a Christian when the speech of that person demonstrates the contrary. This is worthless religion.
This picture of Christianity lived out in regards to the heart and tongue leads to verse 27 where James gives the second picture of “true religion,” only this time it is pictured as “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father.” He is in essence saying, “Here’s what Christianity lived out should really look like!” What is this “pure and undefiled” living out of the faith? James says it is “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The second of these makes logical sense, as to be unstained from the world is to cease to carry on in the ways and practices of the world, i.e. all that he will address in the chapters ahead. But the first seems to catch the reader off guard. As a reader of the context of the book would expect, James doesn’t say that pure religion is “to care for the poor and needy in your midst,” though he could have. In the next chapter he is going to state the believers’ need to treat the poor with equal standing as the rich and to provide food and clothing to the needy (2:1-16). Here in 1:27, James mentions a specific group of needy people- orphans and widows. Why does caring for this specific group of needy people embody “pure and undefiled” living out of the Christian faith for James? To get the answer to this question we would need to survey through the Old Testament passages that talk specifically about the orphan and the widow and what they reveal about God Himself (and if the Lord wills, we will do this). But for now, let it suffice to be said that James considered the church’s role in caring for orphans and widows “in their distress” to be of utmost importance!
Another clue can be found in James’ use of the Word “Father” to refer to God. He never uses “Father” simply as a title for God, but to emphasize the relationship of this Father to His people. This can be seen in 1:16-18 where James emphasized the “begetting” relationship of the Father to us and the good and perfect gifts that this Father gives to us. James says that it is the Father who “brought us forth” of His own will by the word of truth (1:18). He is our Father simply because of His mercy in “bringing us forth.”
The title “Father” for God is also strategically used in 1:27. Notice he says that caring for orphans and widows is pure religion before “the God and Father” (literal translation). It is this aspect of the Fatherhood of God to those of us who were fatherless that provides the foundation of our own calling to reflect His fatherhood in our own care of the fatherless and the widow.
Finally, James told the Christians that pure religion was to “visit” orphans and widows in their affliction. This does not mean a casual passing by to check up on orphans and widows. The NIV translates the word “visit” with “look after.” Other translations have used the term “care for”. Each translation is trying to get to heart of the Greek word episkeptomai, which carries the idea of visiting, looking after, and being concerned about someone (see Mt. 25:35). One book helpfully points out that even when episkeptomai means “to seek out someone” in the NT, it never implies merely “to visit” them in the usual sense, or for selfish ends, but always “to be concerned” about them, with a sense of responsibility for others.2 This is quite penetrating for the readers of the book of James, as he makes it clear that they themselves have a responsibility to compassionately care for needy orphans and widows! This is “true” religion lived out!
The challenge remains for us today. The Father has placed each of us in a situation where we are surrounded by orphans and widows, fatherless children and single moms. In Uganda, there are so many fatherless children that most families consist of birth children and children of relatives who have died. For various reasons many of these families are not able to care for the children entrusted to them, thus there is a great place for the church’s role in taking these children in and giving care to such needy families.
In the West, the need is the same, even if the situation looks differently. Though the government controls the care of full-orphans, the family continues to break down, meaning that more and more children are growing up fatherless and many mothers are left functioning in desperation akin to the Biblical widow. How can the church respond to this desperate need?
One obvious way is for Christians to get involved in foster-care or to pursue adopting children into their families. This adoption can be a legal adoption or it can be a “relational adoption,” which is a commitment to providing long term care and fatherhood or motherhood to fatherless or motherless children in your midst. This should be happening especially in our churches today! Even busy Christians can single out a fatherless child in their church or in their neighborhood (or both!) and begin to build a relationship with him or her. It might take some time (and patience!), but over time God will give opportunities to father/mother this child on an increasingly open basis. Another easy thing to do is to go out for a Sunday meal together, or have the mother and/or child/children into your home on a regular basis. Let the children see what Biblical fatherhood/motherhood played out in your own family looks like. Visit the children in their home and seek to build relationships with the mother or family members. Go out for a coke together and just talk about life. Be strategic. Look for opportunities to lovingly speak into the heart of that child or to offer the gift of touch and see God use you as a vessel to bring His Fatherhood to the fatherless. Finally, pray! Pray that God would powerfully break down the walls that naturally form around the heart of a fatherless child, and pray that our God and Father would powerfully bring His own Fatherhood to this child through you and through the Body of Christ!
In whatever situation God has placed you in may we, as men and women of God seeking to live “pure and undefiled” lives of faith before our God and Father, strive to reflect and bring His Fatherhood to the fatherless and widow through our own compassionate care for the fatherless and widows in our own midst, as well as across the globe.