WASHINGTON (BP) -- Understanding what the Gospel is about is at the heart of recovering a Christian commitment to adoption and orphan care, said Russell D. Moore in a lecture at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
"Christians ought to be listening to and attuning to the cries of the vulnerable because we understand our adoption in Christ," Moore said.
Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented the lecture "Adopted for Life: Orphan Care and the Christian Mission." Moore is an adoptive father.
Reflecting on the Christmas season, Moore in his Dec. 4 lecture bemoaned the negligence many Christians show toward Joseph, who adopted Jesus as his son. Moore illustrated this by sharing how, as a young boy, his role as the cow in a Christmas play received more attention than Joseph.
Moore emphasized that Joseph acted in Jesus' life as a true father by naming him and giving him an inheritance in the line of David, saying that "Joseph was putting his life on the line by caring for this child."
"[Adoption] creates a real family and a real relationship with a new identity and a new inheritance and a new future," Moore said, opposing the view that adoption is not quite as authentic of a relationship as biological parenting.
Rather than issuing a command that all Christians should adopt children, Moore cautioned instead that all should care for orphans and widows in certain ways according to their giftedness.
"The task of caring for orphans is both Gospel and mission," said Moore, highlighting the role of adoption in both biblical doctrine and Christian practice.
Moore spoke from experience when he said that caring for orphans is not an easy project because it entails a sense of self-sacrifice.
Referencing the Christmas story again, Moore contrasted Joseph's humble adoption of Jesus with King Herod, who viewed the birth of Christ as "a threat to his kingship."
"Every orphan situation represents a tragedy," Moore said. "When we join ourselves in the mission of Christ to the life of someone else, we are taking on all that hardship and risk."
Church congregations willing to embrace the risks involved with the blessing of adoption are better equipped to live in biblical community, Moore said. This involves evaluating how "the rescuers became rescued" and understanding each member's role in caring for the vulnerable.
Contrary to secular opinion, Moore reminded his listeners that the needy children of the world are not some burden to manage, but are the brothers and sisters of Jesus, who will one day hold his followers accountable for how they cared for orphans.
Christians must open their homes and churches, proclaim with clarity the realities of the Gospel concerning adoption and welcome the unwanted, Moore said.
"We're walking in the steps of a Middle Eastern day-laborer [Joseph], who taught his son by adoption how to speak the words 'Abba Father,'" which brings good news for those in need," Moore said.
Moore's full lecture is available online in both video and audio formats at the Family Research Council's website, at http://www.frc.org/events/adopted-for-life-orphan-care-and-the-christian-mission
Craig Sanders is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.