I’m the proverbial “nice guy.” I don’t like conflict. I dislike delivering even slightly disappointing news. I can barely stomach telling cute, semi-toothless school age children that I won’t buy their chocolates, meat products, wrapping paper or magazines. If I wasn’t so Dutch (a.k.a. “Mr. Tight-wad”), I’d succumb every time to their wide-eyed, heart-grabbing salesmanship to avoid hurt feelings.
That said, don’t mistake me for a milquetoast man. I have passions. And convictions. And desire. At present, I’m purposefully engaged in a conflict that has nothing nice about it. In fact, it’s an all-out war. A life and death struggle that incites me to hot, righteous anger. It transforms this non-confrontational “nice guy” into a fierce warrior.
This war is fought over children – orphaned children more specifically. Here’s one author’s perspective: “The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It’s spiritual warfare.” (Adopted for Life, p.65) Caring for children is spiritual warfare? Absolutely.
This war is raging in my home. It boils in the bedroom next to me where two little girls sleep. Two years ago they slept in an Ethiopian orphanage. Warfare spills into in a bedroom downstairs where three boys are not sleeping (that’s a battle of a different kind). The battle simmers in my heart as I wonder at the wisdom, humor and mystery of God as day-by-day I cling to his sovereign care in melding my family of seven together. In the midst of this melding, the Enemy tirelessly hammers at a wedge, intent on cracking the oneness of my marriage and the unity of my family. I am at war.
This war is fought in hearts and minds. In streets and alleys. In mud huts and two-story homes. It’s a global scourge, with Truth and Love on one side, Lies and Deception the other. The Enemy of Truth seeks to disrupt and destroy families. To multiply fatherless children. To perpetuate suffering. To encourage selfishness. His mission is to keep orphaned children trapped in their plight by insulating and isolating us in perceptions of peace and affluence. He fosters the lie that the problem is “out there” and we can’t make a difference.
But we can. The problem is here. This is war. So I fight.
As I’ve fought, I’ve experienced some unexpected personal consequences. I’ve been led to face the deepest, ugliest, most selfish places of my heart. Over a number of years, God, with a tender fury, has kindly hacked and pulled at roots of pride – pride grown from seeds planted long ago by the Enemy. Roots that have strangled and starved my redeemed heart. The uprooting has been painful. But my Lord is gentle.
As the roots have come up, my heart is breathing again. It has warmed – warmed to risky obedience. Two years ago, obediently and with an anxious hope this riskiness led Katrina and me to a faraway place. There we looked deep and long into the wanting eyes of a fatherless child. Two, actually. Children made in the Creator’s image. Made with purpose, yet left alone. They were hopeless, yet hoping. Wondering, and wonderful. Homeless, but now home. Here.
Still, the spiritual battle continues. And in this battle God is revealing the state of my spiritual contentedness. How? By asking me to give without expectation for reciprocation. Giving exposes my tender soul to abuse and usury. Caring for children, particularly orphans, is high-level soul exposure. There is no immediate payback. No record-keeping. No settling-up. This type of one-way giving is fertile ground for growth in Christ-likeness. It is painful, thankless and sacrificial. It is an expression, in the words of the Apostle James, of “pure religion.” (James 1:27) God is using two abandoned children to bring a greater purity to my religion.
James also says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Real faith is active. The war to reclaim orphaned children demands warriors who fight with their unique gifting. For some this means giving monetarily. For others it’s providing medical care, building an orphanage or digging a well. Others battle by petitioning our Heavenly Father on behalf of the world’s 140 million orphaned children. And for some, God opens their hearts to adoption.
No matter the weapon we wield, care for the orphan is an outworking of grace and obedience. It’s faith in action. A gracious giving back to God. A reflecting back of His sacrificial love for us. It’s what we must do. Let’s not forget that we all have an orphan’s heritage – lost and hopeless in our sin but for the rescue by Jesus Christ through adoption. (Eph. 1:5)
We are at war. How will you fight? November 7 was Orphan Sunday. November is National Adoption Month. Respond to God’s call to fight for needy children. Do it in through your unique provision, giftedness and circumstance – for His glory.