May 29, 2023
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
It was 2pm on a Thursday when we received “the call” every foster parent anticipates. The social worker briefly described the situation, and I called to confer with the family. By 5:30 that evening, my husband, our three older teens, and I added a baby and a six-year old to our family. The children lived with us the next two years while their biological mom worked to put the pieces together.
In James’ day, widows and orphans were among the most vulnerable in society. He urges believers to relationally invest in and care for the most vulnerable. He suggests the action of moving towards the vulnerable is among the purest expressions of our faith.
Jason Johnson, a Pastor and respected colleague in this vulnerable child space spoke about this verse. He said:
[James is] not so much commanding us to do something as much as he is inviting us to be something – the kind of people who have been so deeply and intrinsically affected by the gospel within us that it begins to express itself in some pure and vivid and clear ways through us.
In the gospel God says, “I see you where you are and I’m coming after you!” Perhaps James is suggesting that this gospel is most acutely and purely put on display when we echo that same sentiment with our lives to those around us.
Interestingly, James ties “keeping unstained” to caring for the vulnerable. Some friends seemed to view us as “extra spiritual” in our season of fostering. Yet nothing could have been further from the truth! Instead, fostering exposed our own deep need for the Gospel. Our privilege and work ethic wooed us into false narratives. Fostering exposed those lies, and paved the way to surrender, lament and trust in God’s mysterious (albeit perfect and wise) sovereignty. Perhaps the process of “keeping unstained” begins to happen as we become more aware of our own poverty and brokenness.
The ministry I work with is banking it all on the local church. We believe the CHURCH is best designed to bring hope and healing to vulnerable children. We want to inspire MORE THAN ENOUGH foster and adoptive parents, wrap around care for families, and mentors for young adults who’ve aged out of foster care. For that vision to be reality, we need an engaged body of believers willing to move towards the vulnerable, cast out fear, and put the Gospel into action. We need people uncomfortable only hearing the Word.
As the PCA thinks ahead to the next 50 years, my prayer is we’d be a denomination who has a deep love of the Lord through His Word. Out of that love, I pray we’d relentlessly step TOWARDS others- especially the vulnerable. As we walk out that obedience, I pray the PCA would become a Preview of Coming Attractions (a dazzlingly glorious eternity!) to a heavy laden world in desperate need of hope and grace.
*PCA- Preview of Coming Attractions- credit: Rev. Scott Seaton
Chris & her husband Scott live in Arlington, VA where they planted Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. Chris serves as Executive Director of Project Belong VA. Prior to launching Project Belong, she served as Missions Director at McLean Presbyterian Church. Chris & Scott have three adult children and a (spoiled but trusty) golden retriever, Knox.