To be loved by the Father through the Son in the Spirit is to be caught up into an ever-flowing eternal love that progressively transforms, often painfully so, the one who is loved. As those who have been brought graciously to faith in Christ, to be caught up into a love like that is the greatest, most universe-renewing of all gifts. We who were once haters of God, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), are now forever in His eternally beloved Son through God’s transformative work of adoption (Eph. 1:3–6; see Rom. 8:15).
This wonderful gospel reality—or, I should say, this breathtaking adoption reality—forever changes everything, including how we relate to God, our fellow human beings, and creation itself as God’s good stewards.
One of the gifts that a heart aflame with the adoptive love of our triune God has is an increasing openness to those who are fatherless in this sin-cursed, sin-spoiled world. Because of the rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we find ourselves in a world that idolizes the strong and powerful, but marginalizes the weak and powerless.
Because of what God has done for us through adoption, our Father eventually and inevitably awakens in us a heart for orphaned children. For some of us, this means we will adopt or help other families adopt, but for everyone it means that we will visit orphans in their distress in countless other ways (James 1:26–27), including advocating for them with hope-giving words (1:18, 26–27), partnering with international churches that care for orphans overseas through family-care strategies, and more. Certainly, God does not call every Christian to adopt, but He does call the church to care for orphans—adoption being one small way to fulfill this calling—and that calling is fueled by God’s adoptive grace to us.
With all this said, it’s important to make the following observation: When Christians are unsure of their Father’s delight in them, real Christian heart joy is absent and passionate Christian living is anemic. It’s nearly impossible to mobilize Christians who are unsure of God’s delight in them to care for orphans with unflappable confidence and joy for the long haul.
When Jesus was about to go public with the mission of God, His Father declared over Him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). As Scripture makes clear, Jesus had been sent to fulfill the Father’s mission to redeem humanity and renew creation—which includes, by the way, the removal of the word orphan from the human vocabulary. God’s Son went forward with the mission of His Father in the strength and knowledge of His Father’s delight (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
The good news of the gospel is that God speaks analogously to every Christian, everyone who is in Christ. If we are adopted by God and are in Christ, we are “sons” and “children of God” (Rom. 8:15–16). As God’s adopted children, we not only have the privilege of participating in His work, we also do so in the strength and knowledge of our Father’s love.
Orphans need churches that are full of people who daily hear and rehearse this amazing truth—in Christ we are beloved children of God and are to live in the light of this fact.
As I’ve already mentioned, when God the Father declared His love for His Son (Matt. 3:17), it was the day that Jesus launched His public messianic ministry. As our Messiah, Jesus was the faithful Son who always did the will of His Father. Never once did He disobey or disappoint Him. All of His living, from His birth to His death, was perfect in thought, word, deed, and motive. His life was perfectly lived, and He lived it as our Messiah. Our lives are not lived in perfect obedience, but we, too, must live as children of God (albeit adopted ones) rather than as slaves who have no inheritance (Rom. 8:15).
Living as the church involves learning to live each day knowing that God the Father delights in His adopted children even as He delights in Jesus. Those who learn to live in the knowledge of God’s loving pleasure will find that circumstances no longer control them. They will find that they are able to deal with the difficulties of an other-centered life with confidence and humility. If we are confident that we are being loved by God in this way, not only will we desire to love others as we are loved, we will also be empowered and compelled to do so.
Imagine the impact churches would have upon the orphan crisis if they were filled with people who moved forward in the strength and knowledge of their Father’s delight. Just imagine.
Orphans need churches that point them daily to the love of their Father in heaven.