Foster Care and Faith
"...faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself." James 2:17
Throughout the Bible, God calls His people to demonstrate the authenticity of their faith within the context of daily life. One such command, repeated a multiplicity of times, is the command to care for vulnerable children. For example, Isaiah 1:17 says, “…Defend the rights of the fatherless” (HCSB). In the New Testament, the apostle James defines one fruit of authentic religion as “…to look after orphans…in their distress” (James 1:27 HCSB).
The question then begs to be asked, “Why is this kind of care a central mark of authentic faith?” The answer, in a word, is love. Adoptive care is one of the most ancient Christian social practices because love-a self-sacrificing, active love- is the authenticating fruit of genuine faith (1 John 4:7-8). In fact, both Jesus and the apostle Paul teach that the entirety of all other moral obligations to God and others will be fulfilled if we obey the two greatest commands: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:8).
This leads to an additional question: “Why is love the ultimate fruit of authentic faith?” Simply put, God is love (1 John 4:8) and the greatest demonstration of His love is the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:16). Authentic faith in this God and His Gospel of love results in a heart impulse to image this very love within the world. Think of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) who exemplified this impulse. His exposure to a great need compelled him to act on its behalf-even at great personal cost and risk. Of course, the ultimate Good Samaritan, Jesus Himself, epitomized this impulse by giving His very life to meet humanity’s greatest need (John 15:13).
And so, let’s circle back to foster and adoptive care. Since one unmistakeable manifestation of God’s love in Scripture is His compassion for the oppressed, afflicted, and vulnerable-including children (Psalm 10:17-18; Psalm 68:5-6)-it follows that His people will manifest the same application of love within their own cultural context. Specifically, the Christian will, when exposed to the need, possess a burden for those children in his/her community who lack either a safe, nurturing home or, worse yet, a family to call their own.
Our conclusion? The nature of God and the gospel means that the most conspicuous Christian fruit ought to be love-a love that is the driving impulse for Christian engagement in foster and adoptive care.