Archive | justice

Post-Trump Reflections 4: Inauguration of the King

Part 1: Dueling Moralities

Part 2: Care of the Poor in Scripture

Part 3: Turning to Assyria for Help

In the last post, we looked at God’s warning to King Ahaz not to put his trust in one god-less leader to ward off another. God promised a sign in Isaiah 7:14, a sign Ahaz said that he didn’t want but one that God sent anyway.

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

By the time this sign emerges on the scene, Ahaz is long dead and the nation of Israel has become a small, powerless remnant. We meet Simeon and Anna in Luke 2, some of the few who remain devout in belief that God would fulfill His promise.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

This baby was God’s salvation, the Light of revelation to even Gentile nations, and the glory of God’s people, the dispersed remnant of faithful believers. Jesus was later received into Jerusalem as king and then crucified by the same fickle crowd. But He rose again from the dead, defeating not just the oppressive rulers of the day but the very weapon that gave them power, the threat of death. Rulers would still oppress, but their greatest tool of manipulation, the fear of death, was defused. For true believers, death has lost its sting, the grave no longer threatening annihilation. We serve the One who has defeated the greatest threat of all.

Before Jesus returned to heaven, He gave us a new version of the same commission God gave at the Garden before death entered the world. Go into all the world. Overcome the chaos with the message of God’s kingdom. This remains our commission, though we feel a disaffected remnant in a “Christian” nation that chose a god-less leader to save them from terrorism abroad and closer to home.

We remain constrained by God’s commission. Go. Serve. Protect. Teach. Disciple.

We remain constrained by God’s instructions. Pray for our leaders. Pay our taxes. Pursue justice. Stand firm in our faith.

We do all of this under King Jesus, whose reign is now established. Other dictators have lost all of their weapons. They cannot threaten us with death, for God has overcome it, and death has lost its sting. They cannot threaten us with harm, financial or otherwise, because our God is sovereign, and we can trust His protection.

John 1
5 That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness can not overcome it.

Even in the middle of the fallout in Isaiah from Ahaz’s disastrous alliance with Assyria, the faithful remnant had hope.

Isaiah 26:12
Lord, you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

Isaiah repeatedly refers to this remnant, for whom God makes level paths in the middle of a treacherous landscape. God instructs in Isaiah 26:20 …

Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.

Go, enter your rooms and close your doors behind you. It is God’s job to bring peace, not your own, and we know that He will do it, for He cannot deny Himself.

This may be something of which you need to be occasionally reminded. But for me, it is the lifeblood for surviving not just day by day but hour by hour. As the inauguration of a leader who mercilessly mocks God’s image-bearers approaches, this must be my meditation for I am similarly tempted as Ahaz to put my trust in yet another. But the Light has come, and darkness will not overcome it. God has established peace for us, dear brother or sister in Christ. And any good that we accomplish, He is actually the one who did it for us. Hunker down for a bit as God rouses Himself to judge those who turn to idols while calling His children to lean into Him more and more. The true Name of God is secure. His glory will shine, and His word will be accomplished, not some adulterated version perverted by American nationalism but the good news of His care for those who cannot bring about their own salvation.

Luke 4: 16-20

He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Esther, Victims, and a Reformed View of Depravity

There has been a lot of discussion of Esther lately in the blogosphere. Before that, there had also been lots of discussion of sexual abuse in religious organizations of various backgrounds. I have thought a lot on the two subjects, Esther and sexual abuse. I stare off in space in thought, talk to myself in my car, stare off in space some more, think through the Scripture I know, look up other Scripture online, and so forth. The title of this blog is Practical Theology. It’s my core mission statement – what I believe about God (theology) and what He teaches us through Scripture (doctrine) is practical. No matter how one practically responds to the issues of sexual abuse and victimization, it is inevitably tied to our underlying belief system. In light of that, I’ve been reflecting on what belief system could cause a believer to label Esther a sinner as opposed to a victim in the particular details of her story.

I think the doctrinal issue at play is a view of total depravity that is not supported by Scripture. I love tulips. But I think that our term total depravity may slightly misrepresent the issue. Pervasive depravity may be a better term for it, though PULIP just doesn’t have the same ring. I was first exposed to the terminology pervasive depravity through Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. I’m doubtful anyone would label them as reformed lightweights. Sometimes teachers claim reformed language without fully understanding the totality of a reformed perspective on an issue. I do that at times, and I found my own recent education on the issue of depravity through a well trained reformed pastor enlightening compared to my less than accurate previous understanding.

Here’s the issue with depravity. Scripture clearly presents that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. This does NOT mean, however, that every person is as bad as they possibly could be. It does not mean that every person always makes the wrong decision. It does not mean that no person is able to help or be good to another. No, our depravity is better expressed as pervasive than total. Pervasive means it affects all aspects of ourselves. It is spread throughout, and we are unable to reverse it. But it does not mean that every response every time in every situation is 100% or totally wrong. I hear this wrong view of depravity discussed as Jesus wears the only white hat, and everyone else has black hats. Or Jesus is the only hero, and everyone else is the bad guy.   There’s a sense in which that is pervasively true, but it is not totally true.  *Note that such subtleties matter a great deal when discussing something as sensitive as sexual subjugation.*

This difference is crucial for understanding Esther’s situation. If you think that all people make bad decisions all the time, well, first that is really depressing, and second it’s just not true. In Esther’s case, you then likely interpret the fact that she ends up in the king’s harem and eventually as his wife due to her own poor choices, because, well, that’s the nature of man (or woman) in your belief system. That paradigm has no category for the honest to goodness VICTIM. If you are totally bad all the time, then of course you made only bad choices along the way that led to your victimization.

But the Bible does have a category called the oppressed. And when Scripture refers to the oppressed, it does not address them as moral agents responsible for their own oppression.

Psalm 10:17-18 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Other Scripture indicates that all of us are responsible for our own sin, but not necessarily for our own oppression. There are true victims in Scripture, put in situations due to circumstances (and other people) outside of their control. Esther, like Ruth, is in this category. Sinners? Yes. But not in the circumstances out of their control that are recounted in the books by their names.

It’s very easy for someone with power who is not threatened to surmise what they would do if they had NO power and were threatened. In contrast, anyone who has been threatened sexually and feared for their life or the life of their family will likely give a very different perspective when reading Esther than the one that she contributed sinfully to her own situation. My hope is that sexual assault or abuse victims will not walk away from the recent discussion on various sites about Esther with added shame that you didn’t do enough to prevent your abuse. Understand that while you are a sinner (as am I), you also very likely are simply a victim in that circumstance.

There is a reason that Scripture gives us NO indication of what went on that first night between Esther and the king.  There is a reason that Scripture gives no moral judgement against any of Esther’s conduct ANYWHERE in Scripture. We can imply that she manipulated the king with her beauty and sexual appeal. But such implication is irresponsible. We can imply whatever we want on most any Scripture that doesn’t say something clearly itself. But that doesn’t make it right. The Bible only states the barest of facts about Esther’s first interaction with the king , and I believe that is part of God’s purposes in writing Esther. Apparently to our sovereign God who preserved His word for us through generations, what went on in that room was irrelevant to the point that God planned to communicate — His sovereign hand in circumstances that seem empty of His presence.

The bottom line of Esther has gotten lost in all of this, which is tragic. Many Scriptures teach us of the God who saves us from our own personal sin, the depravity within us. But Esther is very much about the God who also rescues us from the depravity without us. There have been many victims through the ages like Abel, who despite his own depravity was not responsible for his victimization by his brother, and their blood cries out for justice. The God of Esther sees and hears it, promising to work through circumstances and situations where His name is never mentioned to rescue His children.

*Here’s an article from last year on false humility and worm theology that may be helpful on this subject.*

The Cry of the Oppressed

Zechariah 7:9-10 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the immigrant, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

Psalms 10:17-18 O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

It is the character of our God to hear the desire of the afflicted. He inclines His ear and does justice for the fatherless and the oppressed. He is a helper and defender to those afflicted/oppressed, and the particular context is those who are afflicted/oppressed by those with greater strength, power, or authority. Apart from Christ, our nature is to ignore the cry of the oppressed, and Scripture warns us against the consequences of closing our ear to the cry of those in need.

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

One thing I noted in my study of Ephesians was all the ways the gospel and our inheritance in Christ equips us to become “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), reclaiming His image in us that was so marred by the fall of man. And our response to the poor and oppressed is most certainly one of those ways.

Tim Keller’s Generous Justice lays this out with Biblical clarity. I plan to write a review when I finish it completely. I was already coming to a strong conviction that a conservative reading of Scripture will lead to a liberal view of social justice, and Keller’s book has reinforced this conviction for me, maybe even solidified it. I had a moment reading it last night when I felt something that was previously shifting around in my mind finally settle in my psyche.

As God’s grace transforms us into His image, we WILL hear and respond to the cries of the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the poor (though not necessarily politically). Keller’s book does a good job of giving the different arguments for what role secular government should play. However, if you are of the conviction that secular government should be legislating morality, Keller makes it clear from Scripture that the care of the poor and the immigrant is a moral issue, clearly talked of in terms of righteousness and sin in Scripture. If you’re a skeptic and think your gospel responsibility ends at calling someone to repentance, Keller writes out the Scripture again and again, overwhelmingly making his point. I get annoyed with books that just generally refer to Scriptural principles or only give endnote numbers that I have to look up at the back of the book to find the Scripture to which the author is referring. Keller does not do this. He writes it out right in the text and analyzes passage and passage. Keller doesn’t prove his point. THE BIBLE proves his point.

I have spent the last few years becoming increasingly aware of the cries of the oppressed. But sometimes I wonder if my ears are on a different frequency from my peers in the church. I now realize that, no, we aren’t on different frequencies. Yes, we hear the same cries. But many of us have been trained to close our ears when we hear the cry. The church has a bad history of siding with authorities in conflicts and ignoring the pleas of the ones without power. But this is not like Christ. When the salt and light in our culture ignores the afflicted, there is no surprise that the larger culture does as well. If we really want to reflect well the character of our God to our culture, our responses to the poor, immigrant, orphan, and widows of society are a central place to focus.

Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us JustDo not close your ear to the cry of the oppressed. Do not close your ear to the cry within the church, and do not close your ear to the cry in your culture at large. As Keller’s subtitle suggests, God’s grace makes us pursuers of justice. This is core to reflecting the image of God.

For abused wives

In all of the discussions of submission or headship among complementarians, I haven’t read much on what wives should do in abusive situations. Every time I post on being a strong helper, or the value of submission, or respecting our husbands, I always hear from a woman married to an angry jerk who abuses his authority and physical strength. Some women aren’t physically abused but emotionally belittled. Many who write me sound so very discouraged, taking God’s commands seriously and truly wanting to obey. They need clear teaching on when to endure WITH their husband and when to endure WITH CLEAR BOUNDARIES BETWEEN them and their husband. I am by no means an authority on this subject, but something needs to be said, so here goes my first attempt to write on this subject.

Here is my firm conviction (based in part on ideas I articulated in this post on the Christian’s call to end evil in the world). What should you do if you are a Christian wife who loves God and His Word, believes in headship and submission, but is married to a man who physically abuses you and/or your kids? GET OUT.

You may say, “Shouldn’t I endure and submit? Shouldn’t I try to forgive and love unconditionally?” And my answer would be, “Absolutely!” But you can endure, forgive, and love unconditionally without staying in a place that actually encourages more sin. You aren’t enduring with him in love when you stay in a place that invites abuse. We have a term for it now – enabling. If your husband has a porn problem, you aren’t loving him by bringing him Playboy magazines, right? He might say, “Go get me a playboy magazine.” Or “I want to have a 3-way.” (Pardon the crude example—but I think we need an example like this to really get a grip on the difference.) We would never counsel a wife to submit to a 3-way because her husband is her head. NEVER! And the same wife who shouldn’t bring her husband a playboy magazine should not bring him her children to abuse either.

Now, I would also counsel a woman in this situation definitely to endure in love, hoping the best for her husband. I would counsel her to pray diligently for his repentance and transformation and to believe confidently that God can do this. She should pray that he would repent to his children. But NOT from a place where she is enabling him to continue to sin against her or her children.

Issues of verbal abuse are a little trickier. But I use the same line of reasoning there. When you sense that your mere presence is provoking a sinful, angry response against you, remove yourself in love from the situation. You are submitting to God’s moral law by not remaining in that cycle of anger even if you are not submitting to your husband in that moment. We recognize this hierarchy of submission in other areas. I submit to my government until they require something of me that is directly contradicted by God’s Word. I submit to my parents until they require something of me that contradicts God’s moral law. And the same goes with my husband. If your husband is abusing you, instead of focusing on the instructions to submit, you may need to start thinking in terms of loving your enemies.

If you are married to an angry man who hasn’t physically acted out on that anger, I recommend Gary Thomas’ Sacred Influence. He deals with influencing an angry man, and I found his treatment of it, while not exhaustive, certainly helpful. It may be a good starting point for you.

That’s a very short treatment of the subject. Gospel grace, enduring love, and eating it are all still quite relevant when faced with the terrible evil of a powerful person using his power to physically wound those under his authority. You can both extend gospel grace and say no to the perpetuation of evil at the same time. But it has taken me a lot of thinking and wrestling with Scripture to get a vision for what that looks like. I have more thinking to do on this and maybe I’ll flesh this out more in the future. But for right now, if you are in a physically abusive situation, please don’t think you are serving your husband or God by facilitating his sin against you. And please, please, please get your children out and protect them.

**If you know of a Christian organization that helps women in such situations, please feel free to leave the link in the comment section. I know of places in the Seattle area, but I don’t have recommendations for other regions.**

Eating it

“I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.”
-W. H. Auden, 1-Sep-39

Auden wrote those words about the outbreak of World War 2, but the headlines on every news network today reflect it as well. I was painfully aware of it as I watched an older teenage boy in the park physically abuse his younger cousin recently. Though he was gone by the time the police got there, I know had they questioned him, he would have said that someone did it to him when he was young (probably the evil grandmother yelling at the other kids while it was all happening). If you follow the tangled web that leads to any act of vandalism, bullying, abuse, or even terrorism, you will find someone at some point acting out on what evil had been done to them – not paying it BACK usually. More often, they are paying it FORWARD—Zig Ziglar’s kicking the cat syndrome. Tolstoy, in his short story The Forged Coupon, traces the cancerous progression of evil beginning with a boy falsifying the amount on a coupon, which eventually progresses to murder. It’s the circular saw of evil, each act of evil adding another blade in the ever widening circle.

Into this world is born the Lamb of God. He doesn’t pay it back. And He doesn’t pay it forward. He eats it. My pastor called it absorbing injustice, and I recommend his sermon on it here.

And we are called to be like Him. Tim Keller has said it boldly, “A Christian’s call is to stop the spread of evil.” When I first heard that quote, I had to stop and think … Really?! Not just avoid evil or not do evil myself, but to actually STOP evil? It was helpful to go through Ephesians again with women at my church this quarter. By the end of Ephesians, when Paul says “stand firm,” this is exactly what he’s calling us to do. By God’s GRACE, He has equipped me to deal with the evil in myself. And by His grace, He’s given me the tools to deal with the evil in the world. I am called to plant my feet, hold up my shield, hunker down, and STAND FIRM. And when evil slams up against me, Satan’s schemes to defeat me and undermine the march of the kingdom of God, I hold on – feet planted, sword in one hand, shield in the other – and preach the gospel of peace that brings an END to this war.

I love the picture painted of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. But what does that look like in real life? THAT is the million dollar question. I’m thinking about it this morning with my children. How do I teach them to eat the forged coupon? Left to themselves and apart from Christ, their little conflicts with one another escalate to a childish form of murder every time. It starts by someone politely asking for a shared toy, and ends with each boy crying after scratching and clawing the other in anger. I’m thinking about it in terms of myself. How do I eat it when I receive the forged coupon? When my children do evil to me? How do I stand firm in the gospel of peace when my husband is short with me? When he misunderstands me?

I am also contemplating this in our world. Abuse and oppression are everywhere. I’ve become particularly aware of it in the church—spiritual, sexual, and physical abuse in many different denominations. It’s as rampant in Bible and Baptist churches as it is in Catholic ones. It’s often hushed up by church leadership with the end result of predators moving quietly to another congregation in another city to offend again.

My call is more than just to deflect evil off myself, leaving it to affect someone else later. Nor am I called to a victim mentality that endures evil so that evil is perpetuated by my indifference. No, I am called to an endurance and steadfastness that absorbs and ends it. ENDS it. Social justice is the natural outworking of the gospel of peace, which I talked about here. I’ve heard good things about Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice, which I have as the next book on my To Read list.

I am beginning to form a global perspective of what this looks like. Then, as I sit in my chair thinking about my part in ending global evil, I’m distracted by my son walking through the room, demanding something of me. And I’m reminded that my first line of battle is right here in this house, right now, with these two guys – planting my feet firmly in the gospel of peace, absorbing injustice, and doing unto them not as they just did to me but with a vision of what God is calling them to be. Like the guy who can stop the saw with his hand, my job isn’t to get out of the way while the circle of evil perpetuates itself. And my job is certainly not to stay in the cycle. But I am now equipped and called to END it.

Special thanks to my pastor’s wife for prompting me to think on this, especially in terms of our children.

An external act of religion that actually means something.

Having come from a religious background that, much like the pharisees of Jesus’ day, abused teaching on the externals of a person, I am skittish at even considering that externals DO mean something spiritually. Yet, Scripture is clear. Everything flows out of the HEART, but it does flow OUT. Our external actions can have value in terms of self examination. But their value cuts both ways. We can examine externals and become satisfied with ourselves to the point that we ignore our heart – the white washed tomb syndrome. In that case, there is a disconnect between the heart (which is dead) and the externals (which look good). The outside looks clean, yet it houses dead men’s bones. Christians have always been adept at coming up with amazing amounts of white wash to cover our tombs. But we also often miss what Scripture itself says is the appropriate outworking of a heart that abides in Christ in light of His gospel. What should be flowing out?

I am slowly working my way through Ray Ortlund’s commentary on Isaiah, God Saves Sinners. His discussion of Isaiah 1 has pricked me, a sword that cuts deeply and exposes the truth of our problems (MY problems) and the only thing that will fix it.

Isaiah 1 is a lament by God over His children. You are wounded and bleeding, says God, yet oblivious to your sorry condition (v. 5-7). You continue with the traditions of worship like you always have, to which God brings a strong rebuke, “Bring no more vain offerings” (v. 13).

Vain means empty. Useless. Ineffective. Their worship means nothing and accomplishes nothing. They are, in theory, following the letter of the law in their external worship, but it is utterly ineffective, actually becoming a burden to God (v. 14) rather than the incense it should be.

Hear well both the indictment against them and then the answer God gives them in Isaiah 1.

“Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” v. 15-17

As I read verse 17, I immediately thought of those intriguing words on pure religion in the New Testament in James 1. They intrigue me because I so rarely have heard it emphasized with the clarity that Scripture seems to speak of it.

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James calls it PURE and UNDEFILED religion. When you boil it down and remove the impurities, here is what you will have left. Growing up, I read that passage in my Bible but NEVER heard it as a topic of sermons, or youth activities, or Sunday school lessons, or Christian school devotionals, or ministry staff meetings, or chapel messages, or … well, you get the picture. Yet James uses wording that makes it sound like something pretty important. And when I read Isaiah 1 this last week and Ortlund’s commentary on it, I realized, it is of UTMOST importance.

The Greek term in James 1 for religion is interesting. It particularly applies to the outside practices and visible worship that flow from our doctrine and beliefs (as does Isaiah 1). We all know to focus on heart issues. Yet everything that we inwardly believe plays itself out outwardly. Our worship music, preaching styles, the method in which we pray, the way we decorate for Christmas, the Christian t shirts we wear, the WWJD bracelets, the cross necklace, or whatever other OUTWARD manifestation you can imagine of your belief system – that is “religion” of James 1:27.

If you read James 1:27 in the context of the entire chapter, James is teaching on being a doer, not just a hearer, of the word. He says many people look in the mirror, see the truth of what God says, but then turn away unchanged. They hear it, but it never connects in a way that makes a difference. James says that a crystal clear outward indicator that the truth of the gospel actually registered with you is care of the oppressed and remaining unstained by the world. I’ve heard the second phrase taught in the past in a way that is contradicted by Jesus’ own earthly example, and that’s never good. So I want to think more on what it means and post those thoughts another day. But the first indicator is pretty straightforward—care of widows and orphans, and when coupled with Isaiah 1, the general seeking of justice and correction of oppression.

I generally value these things, but I am praying about what I need to see in the mirror of God’s Word and how that will affect my responses to the oppressed in my realm of influence. I have vaguely noticed this in the past, but I didn’t have the gospel conviction to realize what was happening. I remember years ago counseling a former church member who was undergoing a serious crisis shortly after leaving our church at the time. She was suddenly in terrible need. What an awesome moment to show her the love of God and unconditional nature of His grace, right?! It was slowly dawning on me — this is a gospel outworking of love kind of moment. Yet church leaders kept putting me off in my efforts to get help for her and her children. I thought at first that the leaders and I just had a different philosophy on the church’s obligations to former members. So I did things on my own without church support, a little befuddled by it all. Reading Isaiah 1 and James 1 clears it up for me. Now I realize that the real philosophical disparity was over the gospel itself. Gospel-centered, grace loving, Christ abiding hearers of the Word walk away from the mirror with a readiness to care for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, and the oppressed. Once I realized that my burden for gospel-centered care of widows and orphans was not supported by my church leadership, I realized something significantly more. What do the words gospel, grace, and Jesus mean in this moment practically? My gospel understanding deepened, and my conviction to help the oppressed solidified in light of it.

But despite bad experiences with others on the subject as well as my own slowness to grow in it personally, I am also encouraged. As the gospel moves forward, I see a flourishing, gospel-centered growth in ministries focused on care of and justice for the oppressed. Here are a few.

Members of my church are heavily involved in Seattle Against Slavery and Rwanda Partners.

Dan Cruver has spearheaded a growing movement, Together for Adoption, with yearly conferences and lots of helpful material.

Russell Moore has written a great book on the subject of adoption, Adopted for Life.

A good friend of mine has started working for and raised my attention to Illien Adoptions International.

In my small church (maybe 300 people max), at least 4 families have adopted, two of which are elders’ families. There is no big push for adoption, per se. It’s just in their spiritual, gospel-centered DNA. It’s NATURAL to care for such things when you believe what our church believes and teaches about Christ, the gospel, and our adoption into God’s family. The church also has a robust deacon’s fund ready to help any who have need. A few months ago, I met a guy in line at Walgreens who had been burned out of his home, and in half a day, deacons at church were ready to assist him with getting temporary housing. Helping needs, caring for the oppressed, and seeking justice is the accepted norm there. It’s not an agenda. It’s the natural outworking of the gospel.

Now, PLEASE don’t walk away from this article with a simplified checklist on which people or ministries with adoption ministries are good and those without are bad. It’s bigger and deeper than that, and people who love Christ and the gospel are doing it left and right in ways most of us will never know. Most of all, it’s about MY PERSONAL heart, not yours, or theirs. When I hear God’s Word and see MYSELF in the mirror in light of it, I will turn out with a posture toward the widow, orphan, oppressed, and in need. My posture will be to seek justice, to correct oppression, and love the abandoned and orphaned. If that’s not your posture, don’t immediately go looking for an adoption ministry to which to send your money out of guilt (though sending money is good). Instead, preach the gospel to yourself. Our posture toward the needy will be corrected when we hear the Word and see ourselves clearly in its mirror. Meditate on the gospel, grace, and the life of Jesus. Anything less than looking anew on the cross will just produce self-righteous legalists (and nobody wants to be adopted by them!). 🙂

**If you’d like to share a link to other gospel-centered ministries living this out, please feel free to do so.**

**One additional note — what if you or your ministry sit under the accusation of harboring injustice or ignoring the care of widows or orphans? Our worldly coping mechanisms are denial and shame. But the gospel offers us a different beautiful, real solution — REPENTANCE. It is as simple as saying, “Yes, I committed injustice instead of correcting injustice. But I see from the gospel hope for myself and a call to something different toward others. I repent.” THAT is the antidote for accusations of disobedience against you. Chances are, the accusations are true. Face it. Repent. And then get up and go forward in a new direction. To the praise of God’s glorious grace.

Oswald Chambers on Enduring Insult

Profound and convicting words from My Utmost for His Highest

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39

These verses reveal the humiliation of being a Christian. Naturally, if a man does not hit back, it is because he is a coward; but spiritually if a man does not hit back, it is a manifestation of the Son of God in him. When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but make it an occasion to exhibit the Son of God. You cannot imitate the disposition of Jesus; it is either there or it is not. To the saint personal insult becomes the occasion of revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.

The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not – Do your duty, but – Do what is not your duty. It is not your duty to go the second mile, to turn the other cheek, but Jesus says if we are His disciples we shall always do these things. There will be no spirit of – “Oh, well, I cannot do any more, I have been so misrepresented and misunderstood.” Every time I insist upon my rights, I hurt the Son of God; whereas I can prevent Jesus from being hurt if I take the blow myself. That is the meaning of filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. The disciple realizes that it is his Lord’s honour that is at stake in his life, not his own honour.

Never look for right in the other man, but never cease to be right yourself. We are always looking for justice; the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is – Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.