Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday, October 25, 2010

Covenant Adoption vs. Legal Adopion

What is adoption? This is a compilation put together from two definitions; adoption is a legal action that voluntarily brings a child into one’s family. (1) Adoption as we know it is a legal arrangement. It is usually administered by the courts usually with direction from various government bureaucrats. When looked at like this adoption is a rather sterile subject.

Unfortunately, too many people treat adoption as nothing more than a legal action. Some people when the going gets tough, they just go. In one notorious case an adoptive mother in Tennessee placed her son, Artyom, on a plane to Moscow and abandoned him to the Russian government. (2) Many other adoptive children have been abused, abandoned, and even murdered by the hands of their new adoptive parents. (3)

One of the deeper issues that adopted children struggle with is permanence. "Will I be sent back?" Vitali, our youngest son, early on would often ask when we were going to the “Detsky Dom,” the Russian word for orphanage. I finally got the Russian translation of "You are never, never, never going back to the orphanage. Mama and Papa are your parents and they love you and you are going to live with them forever." Vitali just smiled the biggest ear to ear grin when he heard this.

I can't help but think of the passage from Psalm 103:12 "As far as the east is from the west He has removed our transgressions from us." For the Christian it is only through the death of Christ that we never, never, never have to face the consequences of our sin.

In Jeremiah 31:31-34 we are given the New Covenant:

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.(NIV)

The good news of this New Covenant is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God of very God, became flesh, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father so that we may have eternal life by placing our faith in the Messiah. The Christian was totally lost in his sin prior to reconciliation with the Father. In Romans 8 we read that is only through spiritual adoption that we are joint heirs with the Christ.

So what is the New Covenant? For starters it is an agreement; a non-revocable agreement between God and man. What makes this covenant better than prior covenants God gave man is that it changes our nature. God actually writes His law on the believer’s heart. The New Covenant provides for forgiveness of sin and eternal life with God the Father. The New Covenant is eternal adoption.

There are approximately 150,000,000 orphaned children worldwide. (4) There is a growing adoption movement in the Christian church to minister to these children by following the biblical mandate to care for the orphan. Recently the Wall Street Journal (5) and CBS News (6) have even taken note of this phenomenon. The world is watching us. As we bring these children into our families I would like to see the church take a new view of adoption based on a covenant.

When we bring these children into our homes at this point it is by a legal arrangement. In light of this understanding of the New Covenant I would like to propose Christians approach the earthly adoption of children in a new manner. Let us as we bring these children into our homes offer them a covenant of adoption. I would like to see the creation of a ceremony based on a binding pledge before God to the adopted child. I imagine most families already have acknowledged this in their hearts but I would like to see it formalized. We need to show our children and the world that this is REAL and we are serious and fully committed to caring for the orphan.

I would love your feedback. Here is a verbal pledge I have put together:

I __________, an adoptive son/ daughter of God the Father through the New Covenant, love you ___________ and in obedience to the command of God to care for the orphans through the power of the Holy Spirit, I adopt you as my son/ daughter. I pledge to raise you in a home based on Christian values and train you in the ways of God. I will provide for your material needs. When you cry I will be there to hold you. When you fall I will pick you up. I am your father/mother and there is nothing you must offer me. I love you unconditionally and nothing you say or do will stop that love. I understand that you will struggle with issues from your past and I will help you overcome these through the grace of God. I promise to listen and answer your questions with honesty and integrity. Your name is_____________ you are my son/daughter. I pray that you will accept my love and become a man/ woman of God. I covenant today to do all this before God and men in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

An additional benefit is there are times when legal adoption is not possible but covenant adoption is always possible. Any input?

Steve

(1) The Free Dictionary by Farlex http://www.thefreedictionary.com/adoption and Merriam Webster Online Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adopt

(2) Tennessee Adoption Angers Russia After Woman Sends Boy 7, Home, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Kristin M. Hall, http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/apr/10/tenn-adoption-angers-russia

(3) Adoption Season For Evangelicals, Wall Street Journal, Naomi S. Riley, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703743504575494263102089970.html

(4) 150,000,000 estimated orphans based on 143,000,000 orphans in the developing world according to UNICEF’s 20004 report Children on the Brink plus estimates of children in North America and Europe. http://www.unicef.org/publications/cob_layout6-013.pdf

(5) Forever Family Forever Dead http://bastardette.blogspot.com/2005/08/forever-family-forever-dead-memoriam.html

Evangelicals Start Adoption Push, CBS News, Joel Roberts, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/03/national/main2757240.shtml?source=RSSattr=U.S._2757240

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Christian Response to Paying a Bribe in Adoption

So often we live our Christian lives without thinking. I have often heard a person say ‘it is never right to do wrong to do right.’ They are, in fact, using this as a trump card to end discussion. The truth is they are actually making two statements. The first is that it is not proper to sin to do right. The second is that the thing being discussed is sin. The first statement is true. The second may or may not be true. Too often we simply let this cliché theological statement end the debate. It should not. The second implied statement needs to be explored.

One example I would like to deal with is that during an adoption paying expediting fees/ bribes/ or exploitation fees are morally wrong or sin. When I was initially beginning the process of bringing my three sons into our family I was firmly in the above camp. Then something happened. Through a series of miraculous events I ended up on an airplane next to a missionary from Ukraine who had been involved in helping resolve an international incident. We spoke about expediting fees and I firmly said ‘I’m not going to pay ANY of those BRIBES!’ His response shocked me. This ‘Christian’ man said “Why?”

I was unprepared. I had my cliché but I didn’t have a reason for believing it. My entire view on this subject was based on a feeling and the group-think of like-minded Christian people. He challenged me to search the Bible and see what God actually said about bribes. When I actually looked at what the Bible said I was forced to change my view.

Over the last few years as I have advocated for orphans I have been alarmed at how some Christians have allowed a flawed view of what is right when a corrupt judge or bureaucrat denies justice unless a bribe is paid effect how they respond. I have seen some prospective parents thinking themselves doing the ‘right thing’ make a choice with tragic consequences. Too often Christian prospective adoptive parents let an uninformed cliché drive their decisions.

I have concluded that paying expediting fees to facilitate an adoption is morally right and not paying them when demanded is wrong. I am including the following apologetic below to prove my conclusion.

Demanding a bribe is wrong. Paying one is not.

Exodus 23: 8 provides a clear understanding about bribes. In the NIV we read ‘Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.’

2 Chronicles 9:7 shows us God’s command for judges related to bribes. In the NLV it reads ‘Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.’ Once again the command is about demanding a bribe not paying the bribe.

In Proverbs 17, we see examples of paying a bribe and the receiving of the bribe. In verse 8 we read: ‘A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; wherever he turns, he succeeds.’ Just 15 verses later in Proverbs 17:23 we read: ‘A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.’ In this chapter we see the payer of the bribe is ‘successful’ but the receiver of the bribe is ‘wicked.’

What Christ said about being exploited

During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us what we should do when somebody is trying to exploit us. In Matthew 5:39-41 we see the words of the Messiah:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Based on this scripture we could possibly even conclude that when somebody is trying to exploit us we should not just pay their price but the most spiritual response may be to offer them double. We also have a responsibility to be good stewards. For a moment, though, imagine the shock of a corrupt judge who asks for $1,000 and you give him $2,000 instead and tell him why you took that action.

When faced with an apparent moral dilemma there are times when things that may appear wrong are, in fact, right.

Rahab in the book of Judges lied to protect the Hebrew spies. The lives of these men were at risk and when directly asked by soldiers Rahab told them the men had already left the city. All the people of Jericho were later killed but Rahab and her family was spared. The Messianic line came through Rahab’s family according to the genealogy in Matthew 1. In Hebrews we see Rahab included in the Faith Hall of Fame. Lest we are confused we read in James 2 that Rahab’s actions protecting the spies was evidence of her faith.

In Exodus 1 we read how a new Pharaoh came to power who was intimidated by the size of the Hebrew population. The king perceived them as a threat. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the male children. The midwives refused and when confronted by the Pharaoh they lied and told him that the Hebrew women delivered their own children before they had a chance to arrive. In verse 20 we read that God BLESSED these midwives for their actions.

One of the modern heroes of the Christian faith is the Corrie Ten Boom and her family. During the Second World War while the Nazis were exterminating Jewish people Corrie and her family acted to hide Jews from the death camps. The family lied and bribed local officials but eventually they were found out but not before dozens of lives were saved. Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp. Betsy would die there but before her death shared this great truth; "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.” It is self evident that the Ten Boom’s were morally right doing what they did to protect human life.

While this evidence is overwhelming we should not take this as a moral license to do as we see fit. In Acts 8 we see an example where somebody tries buying something to which he is not entitled. When Simon Magus saw John and Peter lay hands on the disciples in Samaria he asked to buy the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Peter condemned Simon and told him, ‘May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. This argument should not be misconstrued to argue for doing something that is actually wrong. We must also not fall down the rabbit’s hole of situational ethics where we are doing what ‘we see as right’ as did the Israelites of Judges 21:25.

While the threat to the orphan’s life not adopted today may not be as imminent as the above examples there can be no doubt that the orphan’s life is in grave danger. Many will not live to see their 18th birthday.(1) Millions will face AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.(2) Thousands upon thousands will be prostituted as children.(3) The displaced and orphaned child will often be conscripted into militias or armies as child soldiers.(4) Scores will take their own lives in despair. Many will be homeless and be murdered on the street.(5) Sadly, the outcomes of foster children in the United States are comparable to the third world orphan.(6)

If the Hebrew midwives, Rahab or the TenBoom family failed to act, the people they were helping would have surely died. With the first two examples we have clear biblical evidence that the actions were held in high regard by God. With the TenBoom family the evidence is prima fascia that their actions were heroic. While the imminence of the threat to the orphan may be delayed it is real. Much like the lost soul who refuses salvation may not be in immediate peril, the orphan that misses his adoption or ‘day of salvation’ will eventually face destructive outcomes.

A final example of God’s heart towards paying a corrupt price to facilitate adoption

The strongest evidence is the central purpose of the Christian faith. In Ephesians 1 we clearly see that the purpose of our universe in the reconciliation of man to God by redemption through adoption in Jesus Christ. We are joint heirs of the Father with the Messiah only through adoption. The cost of our spiritual adoption by God the Father was paid for through the most corrupt, evil, diabolical, unfair and unjust price ever demanded in all of history.

Our adoption required Jesus to accept the limitations of a human body. The Christ was without guilt but was falsely arrested. Pilate found no fault in him but He was wrongfully condemned in a sham trial. Jesus was unfairly tortured and ridiculed and then nailed to a cross where He died amongst criminals. Our redeemer willingly laid down His life to pay the price of our adoption. Only through His willful choice to be unfairly and unjustly exploited, are we sons and daughters of God Almighty.

It is not fair that we may have to pay for justice. Those who hold these orphans hostage for bribes and expediting fees should live in fear of God. Justice is transcendent. There is no excuse for denying the orphan justice simply because an evil person is exploiting you. Justice gained is justice, even if it must be paid for, just as justice denied when we refuse to pay for justice is injustice.

1. Human Rights Watch NGO Report Children Abandoned to the Russian State: Cruelty and Neglect in Russian Orphanages http://www.crin.org/docs/resources/treaties/crc.22/Russia_NGO_Report.pdf

2. UNICEF’s 2004 report Children on The Brink plus the unknown number in North America and Europe http://www.unicef.org/publications/cob_layout6-013.pdf

3. The Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/factbook.htm

4. Child Soldiers: Global Report 2008 http://www.childsoldiersglobalreport.org/files/country_pdfs/FINAL_2008_Global_Report.pdf

5. Children in Brazil: Death Squads http://homeport.tcs.tulane.edu/~rouxbee/kids99/brazil9.html

6. Child Welfare and Crime: Measuring the Effects of Foster Care, http://wings.buffalo.edu/soc-sci/economics/NewFiles/doyle_fc_crime_march07.pdf

Friday, October 08, 2010

How Could a Loving God Allow 150 Million Orphans?

There are nearly 150 MILLION lost children in our world.

For perspective imagine a sports stadium full of orphans. Now realize if you were to add up EVERY person who will attend EVERY MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA and NASCAR event this year it would still be less than 150 million.

The orphaned child faces untenable circumstances. Many will not live to see their 18th birthday. Millions will face AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Thousands upon thousands will be prostituted as children. The displaced and orphaned child will often be conscripted into militias or armies as child soldiers. Scores will take their own lives in despair. Many will be homeless and be murdered on the street. Sadly, the outcomes of foster children in the United States are comparable to the third world orphan.

This question is inevitable; how could a loving God allow this to happen? This is a question I have wrestled with and that at points has shaken my faith. The sights, sounds, and smells of the orphanage haunt your memories. You reach a point when you want to shake your fist in God’s face and scream ‘what is wrong with you?’

The despotic leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin once said ‘to kill one man is a tragedy. To kill a million is a statistic.’ The orphan’s predicament is often abstract in the church. It is a problem that is out there but not right here. We hear 150 million and it is just a statistic.

These kids are real, though! When they fall down there is nobody to console them. When they are lonely there is nobody to hold them. When they are hungry there is nobody to feed them. When they are vulnerable there is nobody to protect them. David Platt, author of the bestselling book Radical wrote:

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.

Every single one of those 150 million children has a name. The cry of orphan’s heart is real! It will pierce you to your core if you let it.

We read in James 1:27 that caring for the orphans and widows is ‘pure religion.’ We now think caring for the orphans is a backpack in a bin once a year and ‘just 90 cents a day!’ We feel good because ‘we sacrifice a little of Christmas for the orphans’ when we send a shoebox filled with dollar store presents. We have become a people consumed by materialism. We care more about a Lexus than Alexis who is going to be damned to a life of almost certain death and destruction!

The purpose of our universe in the reconciliation of God to man by redemption through adoption in Jesus Christ. There are nearly two billion people who claim to be followers of the adopted son of Joseph, Jesus. Two billion people who as Romans 8 tells us are joint heirs with the Messiah through adoption!

Through the collective inaction of the church millions of children have died and more live in a hopeless despair. What if we simply embraced the central theme of our faith? If just 12.5% of people who call themselves Christians were moved to give the orphan a family the problem would be solved. Should we still want to challenge God for doing nothing? Let us ask that question while standing in front of a mirror or better yet while looking into the eyes of a waiting child.