(2 Sam 9.11b, 13c)
“While we were children, [we] were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons. . . . So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
(Gal 4.3-4a, 5b, 7).
We’re thankful for what God is teaching us about children, the State, welfare and depravity. However, we’re infinitely more thankful for what he’s teaching us about the gospel. We’re all grandsons of Saul, lame in both feet, and dependent on the King’s mercy.
I’m certainly no expert on foster care, but I didn’t want to waste these first impressions. So for posterity’s sake and posthumous disposal, here are my initial thoughts. They are subject to change without notice.
1. There is a world of darkness and depravity out there that my middle-class, white, suburban mind only knew about in pictures. Hell is real and gleefully torments the least of those among us. All the while, churches debate oak versus pine hardwood floors.
2. Our process has revealed a strange misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty among Christians. Many have said, “I don’t think I could foster children because you put so much into them only to have them leave one day. I couldn’t take that pain.” To that I’ve considered several thoughts.
One, it will and should be painful if it happens. We trust God will meet us with strengthening grace then. We believe God will help understand more and become more like Jesus through it.
Two, why not have the same perspective with biological children (or anything else for that matter)? Does God owe them another day simply because they’re genetically yours? As certainly as God may send our foster children back home tomorrow, can he not call your biological child home all the same? We must hold all God’s gifts loosely. Thankfully and joyfully, but loosely.
Three, God did not temper his commitment to us by the amount of pain that commitment might cause. If we only did those things that carried little-to-no risk of pain we’ll never know the abundant life of Christ (Phil 3.10).
3. The State is God’s gift for restraining evil and rewarding good (Rom 13.1-7). But it is not a parent. God intends the State wield the sword, not a rattle. More Christians need to be involved in fostering and adoption. I say that as a recovering pious snot who who not so long ago thumbed his nose at “those people who need to get a J-O-B.”
Christians spend much time complaining about the welfare system. We argue that its the secular government’s fault that kids are wasted and schools are dangerous. While that may be true in part, our inaction has demonstrated faithlessness in the gospel to remedy social ills. We’ve buried our heads in the sand, refusing to put God on display to the world. Fostering and adoption provide a tremendous opportunity to prove that the gospel-centered worldview can and will do far more than “the system” (much like Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship initiative in prisons).
This is not a political issue, but a spiritual one. You want to see public schools change in fifteen years? You want to see children who know more about God’s glory in creation than man’s glory in XBox? Don’t look to a secular government for help. By faith, foster and/or adopt. Multiply that perpsective throughout the church and our communities look much different in a decade.
Is our faith in the government or the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Do we believe King Jesus to be a far better caregiver than Caesar?
Not all Christians should foster and/or adopt children, but more should than do. Let’s not rush to couch this in terms of “calling.” We often justify disobedience to Scripture by claiming we’re not “called” to this or that (see Jas 1.27). There is one “Calling” and that’s to Christ (Eph 4.4). All efforts thereafter are outworkings of faith in that Calling.
Is fostering/adoption something you’d like to do? Do you have opportunity? Refuse to look on paper and calculate all the possible outcomes to all the “what ifs.” Don’t overthink it or you’ll never do it. Step out on faith, start the process and see if God prospers it. Be willing to put God on display for all your world to see. What better picture of the gospel could we paint for our communities than reaching into darkness to rescue helpless children from condemnation? This leads me to the next thought.
4. Fostering/adopting have helped us understand the gospel better. We have a small, but real, taste of God’s compassion for us. Staring into the eyes of abused children is to stare into a mirror. Children otherwise stuck in hellish situations is no different than all of us born slaves to sin. As bad as an abusive home is in this life it’s nothing compared to hell’s eternal abuse. To pity wards of the State is to understand God’s pity for me, otherwise a ward of Satan.
Fostering/adoption is making a child in fact what he/she is not by nature. God makes us in fact what we are not by nature: his children with all the rights and privileges of heaven. We are lame children who sit at the King’s table and feast on his finest menu. We don’t call him “Mr. God” but “Abba, Father” (Rom 8.15; Gal 4.6). Therefore, fostering/adoption are means to an end–evangelism. They are living tracts, living parables.
We also understand a little better that for there to be redemption, God must tolerate (in fact, sovereignly allow) abuse. Our joy in fostering has come at a huge expense; the disruption of a family and abuse of children. Likewise, God’s joy came at the universe’s ultimate expense: the death of his One and Only Son (see Acts 2.23; 4.28). It’s a hard truth to stomach, but God must let sin takes its course so that grace can be, well, grace.
While I’m thankful for two new children in whom we’ll invest all we can, I’m more thankful for two children through whom God has invested in me. They’ve helped me understand that I was born on the other side of the tracks, too.
I am Mephibosheth.