Orphan Care and the Great Commission
By Jamie Schumacher
“I just don’t feel like peopling today!”
Have you ever heard someone say this? The urban dictionary defines “peopling” in this way:
“To people or engage in the act of peopling is to be able to remain tactful despite a person’s obvious stupidity and/or, lack of social skills.”
Imagine this, you are driving down I-35 singing along to the radio, not a care in the world and someone comes out of nowhere and cuts you off. Or perhaps you decide to run out to grab a few groceries and two aisles in you hear the high-pitched shrieks and wails of an agitated toddler. What is your initial response? Irritation? Annoyance or anger? Self-righteousness? Perhaps you have reached a point in life where you can respond in a positive manner. In either case, I am not sure any of us has responded with the immediate thought that the annoying person is an image-bearer of God, someone “made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9).
The concept of “image-bearer” is as old as humanity itself (Genesis 1:27).
Human beings are unique in creation as the only being that God chose to make in his image. The first image-bearers, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God, bringing sin into the world. All people of the earth bear God’s image, but most people of the world do not understand this because sin separates man from God. This means that all image-bearers were in need of rescue.
But God had a plan.
He sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of the world and rise again victorious over sin making a way for every single image-bearer to come back into his presence! Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he commanded his disciples to take this gospel, this good news, to all image-bearers: here, there, and everywhere.
Now let’s consider the orphan. The orphan. What are some thoughts that come to mind when you hear this word? Orphan.
We know that the orphan is separated from their biological parents making them vulnerable and in great need of rescue. We are most likely aware that throughout time many people have chosen to “rescue” orphans by bringing them into their homes, often through adoption. We may also understand that throughout time many orphans have grown up with no family to call their own.
The number of orphans made in the world year after year is astonishing. This begs the question: “Are we caring for Orphans?” When considering the orphan, can we honestly say that we think about them as image-bearers? Throughout Scripture, there is a continual sprinkling of reminders of God’s care and how we are to care for these precious image-bearers. Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:9, 27; Psalm 10:14; 68:5; 82:3-4; and Isaiah 1:17 is just a sampling.
If Scripture has so many examples and is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, then, it is up to each of us to prayerfully consider what our role in orphan care is. It may seem natural to think about caring for the physical needs of orphans, but when we think about them as image-bearers, we will be motivated to care about their spiritual needs as well.
Have you ever considered orphan care as it relates to the Great Commission? Orphans can be found here, there, and everywhere. Orphans make up a kind of unique culture that spans all locations, languages, and people groups. When pursuing orphan care or adoption, we are quite literally walking onto a mission field.
It may be obvious that caring for or adopting a child in need will be an opportunity to make a new disciple. What may not be as obvious is the whole new world of image-bearers from all walks of life and backgrounds, such as lawyers, social workers, judges, biological parents, and so many more with whom we can share the gospel.
Caring for orphans can be scary and will take us out of our comfort zone. Understanding that there is a whole world of people associated with the orphan who need the gospel may seem overwhelming. However, when we primarily think about all people as image-bearers, we will see their need for spiritual rescue. We will grow compassion and be willing to be a little uncomfortable to bring them the comfort the gospel provides. And in so doing we will be doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission.
Life is hard and people are messy. Some days we just don’t feel like peopling. Sin has brought separation and disorderliness to all aspects of life both spiritual and physical. Just as human beings, image-bearers of God, were separated spiritually from him, so also little image-bearers are at times separated physically from their parents. Both need rescue. The orphan needs physical and spiritual rescue. Entering into orphan care is an opportunity to not only serve another image-bearer through meeting a physical need but also gives an opportunity to step onto a unique mission field and fill the spiritual need by sharing the gospel and making disciples.