Tag: Bible

A surprising perspective on the second greatest commandment

Written by on October 26, 2016 in The Blog with 0 Comments

It is because of the love and experiences I have with these people, my family, that I believe in fighting for families all around the world.

When I was seventeen, I told my high school boyfriend that one day I wanted to be a missionary and start an orphanage. We were standing in his front lawn and he took the news fairly well, if I remember correctly. Then we probably got in my car and drove to Sonic for drinks. That’s how life plans were made back then, over flavored sodas and Texas-sized ideals.

My hopes were a mix of an earnest longing to follow God and my own desire to live an exciting life. My dreams were driven by verses like James 1:27,

“Religion that is pure and faultless before God our Father is to care for orphans and widows in their distress.”

I read verses like James 1:27 singularly, outside of the context of the chapter, book, and larger Gospel story. In my young mind, wanting to follow God, care for orphaned children, and live outside my home country meant one thing: I would start an orphanage.

What other options were there?

At twenty-one, I embarked on a month long internship that involved daily visits to an orphanage to play with the kids, do crafts, and dance to Taylor Swift – the usual suspects. It was here that I first heard stories of parents dropping off their children at the orphanage. I was shocked and confused. I thought I had come all this way to care for children without parents. Why in the world were parents dropping them off? My paradigm of the orphanage model was crumbling, and coming down with it were my hopes and dreams for the future.

Thankfully, James 1:27 is not the only verse to guide us as we care for the vulnerable children in our midst. Likewise, starting an orphanage is not the only option. I don’t want to belabor the research concerning the harmful nature of orphanages here, but it’s available in numerous places. However, I’d like to reflect on a scripture that could be revealing and challenging as we consider God’s desire for children to be raised in a family.

Matthew 22:39 will be a familiar verse to many: “And a second is like it ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus called it the second greatest commandment. I’d like to insert one important word into this verse for a moment to give it perspective:

You shall love your neighbor’s children as you love your own children.

I don’t have children of my own, but I have parents who are crazy about me. Seriously, it’s a little nuts how much they love me. But many of you reading this will have children, and possibly grandchildren. Imagine, if you suddenly found yourself without a job or with a life threatening illness, what would you want for your own children? If you were no longer able to care for them, would you want a spouse, brother or sister, grandparent, or family-friend to take them in and care for them as their own? If you can’t imagine your own children in an orphanage, why imagine someone else’s children in an orphanage if there is a family that could care for them?

The call to love and fight for our neighbors’ families, without partiality (following James 2:8-9), wherever they are in the world is integral to what Jesus’ calls the second greatest commandment.

Family-based care is at the core of God’s heart for children. God places us in families and communities because this is where children grow and thrive. When I reflect back on my original reading of James 1:27, I fear my well-meaning Christian culture was behind the impression that I should start an orphanage, rather than fighting for families. I now believe that is what the Bible actually demands of me.