This past weekend at Mercy Church we looked at the end of James 1. James makes the pretty bold claim that “pure” religion is looking after widows and orphans in their affliction. The care of widows and orphans, James says, is the absolute purest expression of Christianity. I would think something like, “take a bullet for a friend” or something like that would have been “pure” religion but James keys in on widows and orphans.
I believe the reason James says this is because caring for widows and orphans is the purest picture of what Jesus did for us! See the gospel message says that we were the widow and the orphan. Widows and orphans represented the most vulnerable and helpless in society, for they often had no legal way to provide for themselves. Christianity is not only defined by helping the helpless, but a Christianity that does not help the helpless is not Christianity. One test of pure religion, therefore, is the degree to which we extend aid to the “helpless” in our world, whether they be widows and orphans, immigrants trying to adjust to a new life, impoverished third-world dwellers, the handicapped, or the homeless.
Take the orphan for example. An orphan needs to be cared for. A 3-month-old orphan left on its own will die. It can’t feed or protect itself. When you start to have compassion for that orphan, you start to feel the heart of God. Because that’s how God felt about you. We were helpless. This world is confusing, messy, and our own hearts are incredibly fickle. And if we are honest, we know that we are deep down confused frightened orphans. And God rescued us. Not because we deserved it…We are orphans! And orphans don’t earn love, they just receive it. So James is saying when you look after widows and orphans, that’s pure religion because that’s self-less love. And that is the gospel.
Though you didn’t do anything to deserve it, the Father in Heaven set his love on you and brought you home. And now you have security and provision in Christ. So now go give the same thing to the orphan God gave to you.
This is why orphan care in particular is such a part of the heartbeat of Mercy Church. We’ve begun relationships with a couple of organizations here in Charlotte to help bring the love of God the father to the orphans in our community. If you are a part of Mercy Church and don’t have a place to serve yet, you can contact Claudia Lawson, a Mercy Church member who is helping to connect the Mercy family to these ministry opportunities around our city. You can check out local and international options below!
- CHRISTIAN ADOPTION SERVICES – This is a Christian adoption service in Matthews, NC that facilitates domestic and international adoption. They reach out to those that are pregnant and thinking about abortion and suggest adoption. You can also sponsor a child through them.
- ALL GOD’S CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL – Their ultimate goal is for every child to know the love of a family, which is why they are working to provide elevated, family-like care in existing orphanages. By creating family plans for each child, they are able to provide children with the best possible outcomes through reunification, adoption, or supported independence. They also serve as an adoption agency.
- A CHILD’S PLACE – A Child’s Place works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education. It began in 1989 when a group of women were walking through Settlers Cemetery in Uptown Charlotte and noticed children playing there during school hours. When asked why they were not in school, the children explained that they were not allowed to enroll in school without a permanent address. The women began a school for 27 homeless children in a room provided by First Presbyterian Church with a teacher from CMS and called it A Child’s Place.
ELON HOMES & SCHOOLS FOR CHILDREN – Nearly 500,000 children in North Carolina live in poverty, and more than 10,000 children in North Carolina require foster care due to abuse, abandonment or neglect. Elon Homes and Schools for Children (EHSC) helps children in these circumstances overcome the barriers they face to educational opportunity, safe shelter and wellness.
- WORLD VISION – With 46,000 staff members worldwide, they bring sponsors and donors alongside children and communities in nearly 100 countries. They work with a variety of issues – from health to disaster response – integrating lasting solutions to the root causes of poverty and sharing God’s hope for a brighter future. They have many creative ways one can give through them – one is by sponsoring a child.
- COMPASSION – The ministry is focused on the individual child and his or her development. Copmassion is unashamedly and singularly focused on developing children. Each child they serve is ministered to personally, and each church partner we work with tailors its programs to meet the specific needs of the children in its community.