Some friends of mine adopted a little girl from Haiti. She was about five years old. The very first night she was home, they had a nice dinner with pork chops, mashed potatoes, rolls, everything. This family also had two older boys, around ages eight and ten. These were some hungry boys, and so by the time the girl had eaten maybe two bites of her pork chop, the boys had devoured theirs, leaving none left on the serving plate.
The girl burst into tears. Her new parents asked what was wrong. She said, “They ate all the food!” So the mother took her into the kitchen. She showed her the skillet with several more pork chops. She then opened the refrigerator and showed her all the food there. Then she opened the pantry cupboard with all the rice, cereal, canned goods, etc. “Sweetie, we have plenty of food. And when this runs out, we go to the store and get more!”
This blew the girl’s mind. As an orphan in Haiti, she never knew if or when the next meal would come. It was common for the bigger and older children to hog the food. Her parents said it took her months to get used to the idea that the food would not run out.
The fact that there are so many people in the world who live this way is tragic, and begs for one or several other homilies. But for now, I would like to say that I believe many Christians share the attitude of the little girl. She came from a world of scarcity. Being adopted into a home of abundance took some getting used to, and did not happen quickly or easily.
As adopted sons and daughters of the Father, we are no longer orphans. We have been adopted into a home of abundance. Our Father is rich and generous and always provides for us.
For the past several weeks, I have been insisting on the goodness of the Father and trying to help us understand the love of the Father’s heart. If all we have been saying is true, if God is really our Abba, and if he really loves us in this way, it raises the question: what is our responsibility?
To whom much is given, much is expected. So here's the question. After giving us so much, what does the Father expect of his children?
I Can Afford it
Here’s another story. There was a mayor of a fairly large city. He was leaving City Hall with his entourage, getting into a fancy black car, when the town drunk accosted him and heckled him. He pelted the mayor with accusations and criticisms, and really just got in his grill. Members of the mayor’s entourage grew impatient and angry and wanted to have the man arrested. The mayor waved them off, saying: “Let it go. I can afford it.”
“I can afford it.” I do not think the mayor was talking about money. I think what he meant was, I’m the mayor. I have a voice, I have influence, I have a big black car to get into, I have authority. What does this man have? The mayor was able to deal mercifully with the man who was heckling him. Why be bothered?
“I can afford it.” These are words you will never hear an orphan say. The orphan can't really give, since he is always trying to survive. We see this spiritually. The spiritual orphan clings to old wounds, holds onto hurts of past. The orphan just can't let go. No one will give her justice. No one will share her outrage, so she must nurse it herself, carrying it forever.
Sometimes, you meet people who actually define themselves by their wounds. They are permanent victims. They do not know, or do not remember, that they are sons and daughters of Abba. Their wounds become their identity.
Other times, we meet people who define themselves by their sins. They are so filled with shame and disgust and self-loathing over what they have done that they despair of being anything other than their sins.
This is the curse of orphan thinking. But the truth is, we are not orphans. We are sons and daughters.
Blessed to be a Blessing
We are often like that little girl. Once orphans, but no more. We have been adopted into the Father’s house, into a home of abundance. We are blessed in order to be a blessing. We have been given so much. We have a vast storehouse of love that can never be exhausted. We have an excess of love that can keep giving... even when not returned. We have mercy: Love that can even confront even evil, enemies, insults... and prevail.
We can afford it. We can forgive. We can ask forgiveness. When we enter deeply enough into the heart of the Father and our identity in Christ, we become, as Bill Johnson says, virtually “unoffendable.”
If anyone ever had the right to be offended, it's Jesus. He came unto us own, and his own received him not. The very ones he created, the ones he left heaven to save, ended by envying, resenting, killing him. And yet, when they were crucifying him, he did not get mad, he did not get even. Instead, he said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” He could afford it. He had the love of the Father.
To the extent that we are secure that the cupboards are full... that is the extent we can love, give, forgive. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and glorify your Father.” Like Jesus, we are to live in such a way as to make the Father famous, known, loved, attractive. The good works of kids = fame for the Father, credibility of Father, attraction to Father.
People are going to judge God by his kids. If we can't afford to forgive, love, serve, be second...then we look like orphans and the Father is disdained and rejected.
This week's theme is REPAIR.
God has revealed who we are: his beloved sons and daughters in Christ. We have begun to stand on His word and appropriate it for ourselves, declaring it into our lives to break strongholds of orphan thinking. We have been given the tender mercy of Abba to heal us of our sins and our wounds.
Now, we have a responsibility. We are called to be healers ourselves. We are called and empowered to repair the damage we ourselves have caused, and the damage caused to us. To be forgiven, and to forgive. Called to repair, through the grace we have received, the damaged relationships in our own life; to heal the little piece of pain we can make right.
God loves us FIRST. The child of God does likewise. We forgive first. We ASK for forgiveness first. We apologize first. We love first. We serve first. We defer. Why? We can afford it.
There are certain responsibilities that go with having a rich dad. May we embrace them, and do our part to make the Father known, loved, and glorified!
Healing the Orphan Heart #1: REVEAL
Healing the Orphan Heart #2: DECLARE
Healing the Orphan Heart #3: HEAL
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