By: Harper Roderick
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (Christian Standard Bible)
Children in the foster system are in serious need of loving Christian families, and I believe we, as a local church, can do something about it. I want to first clarify that I am not at present a foster parent. Currently, my wife and I do not meet the legal requirements to do so; we simply are not old enough. However, we hope to become foster parents at some point in time. In past employment, I have had the challenging privilege of working with many children; several of whom were in the foster care system. It is through working with these children and reflecting on the gospel and its various life-giving implications that I have developed a deep heart to see foster children taken care of.
I want to further clarify that I am not trying to make the old argument that goes something like, “If every family in the church fostered a child, there would be no need for the foster care system at all.” Neither am I seeking to guilt anyone into foster care. My goal in writing this post is simply to give several gospel-centered reasons why Christian families within our church should consider, if not become foster families.
1). Foster Care is a Spiritual Rescue Inasmuch a Physical Rescue
There are many reasons why children are placed into the foster care system. Some are so horrific that you would not believe them until you saw the deep pain etched into the child’s eyes as he or she tells you his or her past. The physical need for foster kids to be placed in loving homes is dire. The spiritual need, however, is paramount.
The enemy has already separated these children from their physical families. There is nothing more that he would love to do than to keep them away from the eternal Father. A sure way of doing this is to place them in a system where they may be passed from home to home devoid of consistent gospel exhortation that is much needed to heal their hurts. Christian families in Liberty, however, can give these children the opportunity to see the gospel both in the home and our church. While there is no promise that these children will be reunited with their biological families, we can tell of how they can be reunited with the Father through the loving work of Christ.
2). Care for Orphans is a Biblical Mandate
This section is the most straightforward reason why Christians should foster care; God’s Word tells us to. If we love God, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). God’s commandments clearly tell us to care for the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14) and the orphaned (James 1:27). Children in foster care are both. Therefore, we must not merely talk about or simply acknowledge children in the foster care system. No, we must actively seek that foster children are adequately cared for. This is not a matter of mere discussion, but one of action. “Little Children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (English Standard Version). The care of orphans is not something to take lightly. If God’s Word tells us to do something, we should do it; we are in danger if we neglect or ignore the revealed will of God in Scripture (Matthew 7:26-27).
3). Foster Care Gives a Better Understanding of the Gospel
No illustration of salvation in Scripture should be taken lightly. Adoption is such an illustration that the apostle Paul uses frequently (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5). We, by our sin, have been separated from the Father. However, we can be adopted as His sons and daughters through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We can reflect this image of the gospel and that it has taken root in our hearts by in turn caring for children who have been neglected or orphaned by the world. In this way, we will better understand how God rescued us from sin and brought us into His kingdom by rescuing children and reflecting the love of God we ourselves have received. In whatever we do, we should seek to reflect the gospel, and, with the continual study of Scripture, we will better see how the gospel is played out in all that we do. This is especially true in caring for foster children.
4). Foster Care is a Direct Reflection of the Gospel to the World
When we seek to care for foster children, we are showing the world that all people are worth loving. No matter how challenging or inconvenient foster care might be, through our actions we are showing the world that there is something different about how Christians care for and view children. Through foster care, we show that we are truly pro-life by caring for and loving children outside of the womb just as much as inside. The gospel does not lead us to a state of hypothetical moralism; the gospel leads us to actively love others even as we have been loved by God (1 John 4:19).
To conclude, I have just a few final exhortations. If anyone reading this has experience with foster care, encourage and help fellow church members to do the same. If you do not have experience with foster care, prayerfully and earnestly consider becoming a foster parent. If you cannot do so, look for other ways to reach out and care for orphans who, like you and I, need to see the love of the gospel at work. This may be a long and difficult process. It may bring discomfort on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. However, it in no way compares to the agony that our Savior experienced to reunite us to the Father. Thus, we should seek to love and care for children in the foster care system just as we have been loved by the Father.
If you are interested in foster care, here is a link with more practical information on how to get started. Even if you cannot foster a child, I encourage you to check it out and see how you can serve in other ways.