THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
WEEK III / DAY IV
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Scripture / Psalm 68:5-6
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Here we are reminded that God is the one who welcomes the orphans, widows, and strangers, and ensures they are cared for as if they were Israelites themselves. The Israelites are exclusively called by God to an inclusive mission. Their spiritual health is measured by their commitment to care for the most powerless in society – the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. In verse 6, we see God is committed to not just serving prisoners but freeing prisoners who are specifically enslaved to debt.
Our History and Its Legacy
Here in the U.S. there are over 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted. These children have been removed from their biological homes as a result of neglect, abuse, or abandonment, and are currently in the custody of the state. They are those whom the Bible calls orphans.
Some of the challenges we face in child welfare and in foster care today are rooted in the history of the enslavement of African-Americans. Even today, as shown in a study by Knott and Donovan, there is a disproportionate number of African-American children in foster care. In fact, they are 44% more likely to be placed in foster care than Caucasian children.
When we do not care for children and youth when they are young, we pay the price, as a society, later. Multiple studies, including some from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, show that youth who have left foster care are much more likely than the general population to not finish high school, be unemployed, experience homeless, be trafficked sexually, become pregnant at a young age, and be dependent on public assistance.
To take up the cause of the fatherless has been the cause of the local church since the beginning. In ancient Rome, infants were often abandoned on the outskirts of the cities. The practice was called exposing. The child was usually unwanted because they were the wrong gender or had a disability. They were literally taken outside the city walls and left. The sun, rain, or wild animals did the rest of the work. But Christians, who were often a persecuted minority at the time, made a practice of going outside the city walls, finding these children, and bringing them home, sometimes even raising them as their own. (For more on this, see Jedd Medefind’s Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care, and Mentoring - Living Out God's Heart for Orphans.)
Reflection and Response / Prayer
"Thank You that Your Word teaches us that there are no orphans in Heaven. That You adopt each of us as sons and daughters. Help me to believe that there should not be any orphans here on earth. Open my eyes to see the children and families in crisis in my own community. Give me opportunities to make a difference in the life of a child. Thank You that no matter what my age, marital status, or capacity, I can do something to make a difference in the life of a child in need. Lord Jesus, I pray for the day when there are more families waiting to foster and adopt children than there are children on a wait list, waiting to be adopted. Help Your church to lead the way, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen."
Written by Aaron Graham