This past Sunday was both the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church and Orphan Sunday. God has been working on my heart in both of these areas, so we spent our teaching time at youth group last Thursday discussing these issues. In my preparation, I assumed the only link between the two was that they are horrible results of the Fall which God has called us to redeem through prayer, action, and, ultimately, the gospel.

I had spent most of my preparation time thinking about orphans and the need for the church to be active in adoption and orphan care as a reflection of His adoption of us (Galatians 4:1-7). I had not thought as much about the doctrine of our adoption in Christ as something like justification or sanctification, so I was struck by J.I. Packer’s statement in Knowing God stating that adoption is the “highest blessing of the gospel” (207). He explains that justification is the “primary” or “fundamental” blessing, in that all the other benefits of the atonement flow from the appeasing of the wrath of God through Christ’s death and resurrection, but that our adoption as sons and daughters of God, making us siblings and joint-heirs with Jesus, is the highest and deepest expression of the love of God that we can know. Packer is very clear on this point:

You sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. (201)

It was in contemplating my adoption in Christ that God helped me see the link between the persecuted church and orphan care. Again, the link to orphan care is obvious: we care for orphans and adopt them as an expression and overflow of God’s love for us seen in His adoption of us, always with the hope of making children a part of our physical families and, in God’s sovereign grace, our spiritual family.

In the same vein, we pray for the persecuted church around the world, Christians we have never met and will probably never meet until eternity, because they are our brothers and sisters. We care for them and about them because they are our family; we have the same dad. If one of my biological sisters was suffering or being persecuted because of her faith in Jesus, I would be constantly concerned and actively seeking her deliverance every day… every hour! So should my heart break for my spiritual family around the world. Though I do not know their names or faces, we are blood relatives through our common faith in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Our love for the orphans and the persecuted is driven by our adoption in Christ and, ultimately, by our desire to see God glorified in all things.

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For more information about the persecuted church, check out www.idop.org and www.persecution.com.

For more information about Orphans, Adoption, and Orphan Sunday, two good sites are www.orphansunday.com and www.togetherforadoption.com.

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