Catalyst Article: Tension, Mercy and Orphans

Our friends at Catalyst gave the Alliance a great opportunity to raise a banner for orphan ministry—and also highlight the opportunity of Orphan Sunday—in an article published this week.  In it, I especially desire to tackle head-on the deeply mistaken perception that churches must choose between orphan ministry and rock-solid commitment to discipleship and the Gospel…

Tension, Mercy and Orphans

Tension.  A high-wire pulled taut between two poles; a bow stretched back as far as it can go.  Christ’s call is rarely to the “golden mean,” a comfortable-but-often-flaccid moderation that shuns any extreme.  That was Aristotle.  Rather, Jesus’ disciples most often must grip two seeming opposites, both held tenaciously in pregnant tension: grace and truth, humility and boldness, justice and mercy.

At its worst, Christianity loses its tautness.  We seize hold of one pole with white-knuckled grasp and abandon the other.  At its best, our faith is tense as a bowstring in the hands of a master Archer.

We catch a snapshot of this tension in the seeming competition between evangelism and mercy ministry.  Despite wide affirmation that “we can do both,” most Christian organizations tend to emphasize one and under-develop the other.

Yet Christ’s way was to hold insistently to both, always interweaving “preaching the Good News” and “healing every disease…” (Matthew 4:23).  As we follow him in this, we come to see the two are not competing after all.  Far from it.  Tangible mercy in Christ’s name bears compelling witness to the Good News like nothing else on earth.  Meanwhile, the true Gospel is of such glory that both apathy and injustice melt before it; those embracing it, like Zacchaeus, restore wrongs done and extend self in sacrificial giving.

This vision may be nowhere more evident than in the burgeoning movement of Christians committed to both the Gospel and the “cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17) through adoption, foster care and global orphan initiatives.

Care for orphans is mercy at its most poignant, no doubt.  But every act on behalf of the orphan also proclaims the Gospel, revealing to a watching world the heart of the God who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6); it re-tells the story of the God who pursued and adopted us when we were destitute and alone.  A passion for orphans also plunges believers into discipleship as well.   To care for orphans in any meaningful way most always requires personal, sustained involved in the life of a child.  In the process, we are drawn beyond a comfortable religion of self-actualization to a costly but vibrant faith; and there we encounter Jesus Christ as never before in the need, sorrow and beauty of the orphaned child…

Read the rest of the article here