Every year around the Fourth of July I reflect on our son Mischa’s adoption. I remember our adoption journey. I think about how God has adopted me. This year, though, God took me to James 1:27:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The professor in me can’t help but yell, “Amen! Preach!” because throughout the Old Testament (OT) we see God’s heart for the marginalized. James is just picking up on a theme that he knows from his Scriptures—what we call the OT. (The New Testament was still being written.)
Throughout the OT we see references to the widow and orphan, as well as to foreigners.
[God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.Deut 10:18–19
God defends them. He loves them. He provides for them. And we are called to love them. That love isn’t about emotion. It is about action. This love can be seen His people’s obedience to His commands:
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce . . . you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.Deut 26:12
In the OT foreigners, widows, and orphans were those who were most likely to go hungry, to lack a home, to be denied justice. They were what we in North America might call “at risk.” God’s call to care for those who are at risk didn’t end when Jesus came. James tells us that they still matter to God.
Thinking globally, God’s concern for foreigners tells us that what happens to immigrants and refugees matters, whether they come from Central or South America or from Syria. We can always find a reason to not help that person or that group, but are we willing to look Jesus in the eye and tell Him our reasons?
God calls us to love others with demonstrated actions, not to just spouting angry words. We are citizens of His kingdom first. So instead of falling back on political rhetoric on either side of the immigration issues, maybe it’s time for believers and our churches to consider our role and follow up with concrete actions that serve those who are at risk.
We also need to think locally. Those who at risk in our hometowns matter too and we may actually be able to make a bigger difference here.
- What about kids in foster care? Maybe God is calling our families to provide temporary (or permanent) homes for someone who needs a safe place. Or maybe we can do more to support foster care families.
- What about the homeless? When was the last time I invested time serving them, perhaps in a shelter?
- What organizations that serve the differently-abled might we support with time and money? In the U.S., once these individuals age out” of the education system at 21, there’s is a huge need for job opportunities, social interaction, and housing. How can we as believers make a difference? What do special needs individuals in your country need?
- Do we have skills or knowledge that could help immigrants navigate our medical system or governmental structures?
- Maybe we help with ESL classes or tutor at-risk youth.
These are just a few quick ideas. I’d love to hear yours!
Back to James—what we believe matters, but what we really believe is seen in what we do. So maybe it’s time to get to work, starting at home. For those of us in the U.S., maybe instead of celebrating our independence this year, we can celebrate our interdependence. We are the body of Christ. Let’s become His hands and feet, loving those who are at risk in our communities.
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All Scripture citations are from the NIV unless otherwise noted. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.