I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. ~John 14:18
It’s a promise Jesus makes before he ascends to heaven. We will never be orphaned. He is coming to us. We will never be alone.
To many, orphaned is a foreign word. We may hear it often but we don’t really know what it means. Maybe the only experience we’ve had with the word is one from the big screen – that spunky little girl with curly red hair. You know – the one who wins the love of Daddy Warbucks? That’s right … little orphan Annie!
Or maybe when we hear the word we think of far away places … Ethiopia, Nigeria, China, the Philippines. But the truth is, orphans are all around us. In Atlanta, Sacramento, New York City, Fargo, Philadelphia, Sarasota, and right in your own backyard.
Kids with no parents. Or maybe they have parents, but the parents are working so hard just to make ends meet that the kids are left to take care of themselves. And there are the kids from single-parent homes, where the parent is so stressed out and unhappy that even if they are home, their kids get no real undivided attention. Children of drug addicts, alcoholics, over-worked CEOs, they are all – in some way – orphans.
So just what does Jesus’s promise mean in a world full of orphans? At first glance, it seems as though it’s meant to be a comfort to those feeling alone. It’s another instance of Jesus telling us not to worry. He is with us always. No matter what our circumstances, Jesus promises that we have a heavenly father. We have an identity beyond our earthly existence.
But let’s be honest – all too often verses such as this one are used as an easy way to encourage someone when we don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry your life sucks, but Jesus promises to come to you. You aren’t really orphaned.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if this verse isn’t less of a promise and more of a call to action. Sure, Jesus promises to not leave us orphaned … but what if he is coming to us in the form of human beings? What if Jesus’s promise to not leave us orphaned is a promise to provide us with an earthly father and mother? And what if … each one of us is called to be that earthly father or mother to one of the orphaned?
For some of us, that means adoption. Literally becoming earthly parents to a child who has none. UNICEF estimates that there are 13 million orphans worldwide who have lost both parents. 13 million orphans who need a loving and supportive family. That number can seem daunting, but did you know there are approximately 159 million Christians in the United States? So if just under 10% of U.S. Christians adopt a child, we have given all of these orphans a loving home!
But adoption isn’t the only way to help. Through child sponsorship programs such as World Vision and Compassion, mentoring programs for children in your local community, raising awareness through fundraising and conversation, providing a safe place for your neighbor children who are home alone, and much much more, each one of us can be involved in making a difference in a child’s life.
What if we are called to be Jesus’s promise?