Don't Make Orphan Care a Legalistic Checkpoint

We continue to focus this week on Christ's call for us to care for orphans. My family is literally counting down the hours until Sunday morning at Johnson Ferry, when the service will focus on this issue.

My friend Brad (who shares this passion, as well) forwarded me a blog post from Pastor J.D. Greear of Summit Church in North Carolina. The church he leads has a fervent commitment to caring for "the least of these" in a variety of ways. Of course, this includes orphans.

His post celebrates the ways his church is addressing a variety of needs, but it also gives a word of caution about legalism. We cannot become so zealous on this issue (or any issue) that we use someone's response to it as a litmus test of their commitment to Christ.

Greear does, however, suggest that we MUST be moved to have some response. If the plight of the less-fortunate among us doesn't stir anything in us at all, then something is wrong with our faith.

Anyway, I will stop writing and let you read his words for yourself. What follows is all J.D. Greear. But I think he's on to something...

Greear_JD_ Just wanted to give you a quick piece of good news about our orphan care ministry development. We had 250 of you show up for an interesting meeting to investigate foster care and adoption. Wow. I told you that we needed 100 families in Durham and 200 in Raleigh to meet the local needs, and encouraged us to dream great things for God in these areas. God answered our prayer.

Our hope, and expectation, is that the body of Christ in RDU (not just our church) will rise up to answer this need. Let us be the people who take in the fatherless! (More info about that specifically here).

Summit, God has given us 5 areas of great need in our city about which we want to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. They are:

We have learned as a church to measure the compassion of God by the cross and the power of God by the resurrection. Our expectations from God and attempts for God are done according to that standard.

Let us not limit our dreaming great things for God to merely bigger buildings and larger ministries. God gives us access to His power to dream about taking Christ’s love to people “who can never pay us back.”

You have stepped up once again, and I am grateful.

Trevor Atwood preached a home run of a message last week about this.  That sermon and the one I preached before that are here.

One word of caution. In emphasizing all this, we are not trying to create yet another legalististic checkpoint that “you must do to be considered a real Christian.” God did not say that we are saved by faith in Jesus + involvement in orphan care. But people that are changed by God’s love instinctively have a heart for those who are “on the outside.” That certainly includes orphans and foster children…

Yet, in a very real sense “the fatherless” is anyone apart from Christ. A true Christian leverages his life to bring salvation to the “fatherless” (those without God) of all varieties… for some, that calling will manifest itself specifically in biological-orphan care; for others, that call may be fulfilled by taking the Gospel overseas, in others by carrying it across the street to our neighbors or down the hall in your own house. The point is that your life is leveraged not for personal gain but for the lost. No legalistic checklists.

That said, my prayer is that many of you, hopefully hundreds more from the Summit Church, will fulfill your ministry calling through orphan care.

I close with that great segment from The Apology of Aristedes that I quoted a few weeks ago, where Aristedes tries to explain why the early church was growing so fast in the cynical, hostile, ancient pagan world. His words are timeless… by the grace of God, I believe that when this is again true of us, our churches will grow again in this cynical, postmodern age:

“They refuse to worship strange gods and they go their way in all humility and cheerfulness.  Falsehood is not found among them; they love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored and they rescue the orphan from the person who does him violence.

He who has gives to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting.  When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother (took in refugees—we have families that do that… we need more).  They do not call “brother” those who are bound by blood ties alone, but those who are brethren after the Spirit and in their God.

When 1 of the poor passes from this world, each provides for his burial according to his ability.

If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed in the name of their Messiah, they all provide for his needs and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.  If they find poverty in their midst and they do not have spare food, they fast two or three days in order that the needy might be supplied with the necessities.”