This is why Scripture says He “executes justice for the fatherless” (Deuteronomy 10:18) and He assumes the role of “the father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). This is the heart of God, a good, loving and gracious Father.
1) GOD SECURES AND PROTECTS THE RIGHTS OF THE HELPLESS AND HOPELESS
If you were to read the Bible from the very beginning to the very end, several themes would surface that are consistent throughout the narrative of Scripture. Things like God’s power, God’s mercy and God’s faithfulness or man’s weakness and rebellion and ultimate need for redemption. These and many others fill the pages of both the Old and New Testaments, telling a beautiful story of God’s relentless pursuit of His people whom He loves.
Yet, of all the themes to be found within the pages of Scripture, one that shines with unparalleled clarity and stands with an unmatched prominence and stature is this: God secures and protects the rights of the helpless and hopeless. From the beginning of time to the very end, God intercedes on behalf of the needy and offers to them the abundance of His sufficiency. That which uniquely pains His heart unequivocally drives his actions. He sets His pursuit on filling the empty, embracing the marginalized and healing the broken and destitute in Jesus. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9 articulates it this way:
“…you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
This is the Gospel, that while we were empty and impoverished in our sin, the riches of the grace of God in Jesus freely and fully filled us. We simply cannot escape this theme in Scripture, but it doesn’t end there…
2) WHAT PAINS GOD’S HEART MUST PAIN OURS; WHAT DRIVES HIS HANDS MUST DRIVE OURS
The Bible expects that what uniquely pains God’s heart would uniquely pain ours, and what uniquely drives His actions would unhesitatingly drive ours. The benefits of God’s abundance poured into us when we were empty and destitute do not terminate on us. Rather, they are to be extended into the lives of others who are marginalized and oppressed and orphaned. So now, following the pattern of how God consistently works, we are called to “give justice to the weak and fatherless” (Psalm 82:3) and to “seek justice, correct oppression [and] bring justice to the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
As seekers of justice and correctors of oppression we care for abused, neglected and orphaned children because we have been cared for in Jesus; we fight for justice for them because justice has been won for us in Jesus; we seek to rescue them from their plights because we, in Jesus, have been rescued from ours; we adopt the orphan, because as the Apostle Paul writes, Jesus came “so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4:5). We were once empty in sin and orphaned from God, but…Jesus. His work on our behalf becomes the motivation behind our work on theirs.
3) GOD RANKS THE CARE OF ORPHANS AMONG THE HIGHEST EXPRESSIONS OF OUR FAITH
This leads us to the clarion call in the New Testament admonishing us to care for orphans, and provides some context as to why we should. In the Christian life we can demonstrate our faith in God in a variety of ways – i.e. prayer, giving, worship, serving, etc. The means by which our faith can express itself are seemingly endless and full of possibilities. Yet, in James 1:27 we are told that of all the measures by which our faith can be demonstrated, caring for orphans in their distress ranks among the highest and purest.
“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.”
Why would God hold the care of orphans in such high regard? Why does He rank it among the highest expressions of our faith? Perhaps because caring for the marginalized, oppressed and orphaned is not only one of the clearest expressions of the heart of God but also one of the most tangible demonstrations of the Gospel this world will ever see. If the Gospel is ultimately the story of those who were empty and orphaned from God being adopted into His family by the work of Jesus, then our care for and adoption of vulnerable, neglected, abused, marginalized and orphaned children is a beautiful continuation of the redemption story of God and a vivid demonstration of the love of Jesus extended through us. Again, our care of orphans is rooted in God’s care of us through Jesus – it begins not with the orphan “out there” who needs a family but with the orphan in us that has been given one in Jesus. Our celebration of being counted among the family of God through our adoption in Jesus must never be separated from the reality that as long as there are orphans in this world that need a family, we have a job to do.