A wise practitioner of ministry gave me the following hierarchy of reasons that people give to the mission of the church. The bottom of the list are the lowest motivators and the higher up the list the healthier the reasons become. At the top of the list are the highest, healthiest, most sustainable reasons that people invest themselves in the mission of the church. I want to look at these to explore why I think Christians end up getting involved in foster care.
First, here’s the list:
Love, Relationship, Identity
Guilt, shame, fear
Next I’ll take them very briefly one line at a time with the base level first.
Guilt, shame, or fear. At this level people consider getting involved for reasons like this:
- I feel like since I have so much, I’d be sinning not to help in this area.
- If I don’t help out no one else will.
- And while I don’t think anyone knowingly steps into things in the way I will describe next, here’s how I see shame creating motivation: I’ve messed up in a lot of ways so I will do something sacrificial to make God happy with me.
Duty & Responsibility sounds like this:
- This is something God commands us to do.
- The church is responsible for caring for orphans.
- Did you know that there are more kids entering foster system than there are homes to take them in?
- Call them “group homes” if you like, but there are kids living in orphanages in the richest country in the world.
- Kids are a blessing from God and are a joy!
- We were not able to have biological kids.
- Even though foster care is a lot of work, it’s also tremendously rewarding.
- I am following Jesus, and I know Jesus has called us to make disciples, and what better way to make disciples than to have the care for a child in my home.
- God is working through Jesus Christ to redeem and restore all things. We have an opportunity to step into the mess of broken lives and be used by God to share the gospel, and possibly help restore families.
Love, Relationship, Identity:
- I can’t always explain it, but I’m compelled. I love Christ, and I feel like his love for these children and these families compels me to step into this mess.
- I myself am a spiritual orphan, adopted into the family of God. He sacrificed so much to bring me into God’s family. This fact has changed how I view my life. I can think of no greater way to respond to God’s great generosity toward me than to show hospitality to a child that has no home of his or her own.
- Love, real love, is always self-sacrificial.
I relate to some of the examples about need and about personal benefits. So far we’ve only had one placement in our home. Once I’ve opened my heart up to this child, something happened. I love her. I want the best for her. I will open up my heart to her, provide for her, and care for her as long as she’s in my life– even if that means suffering through the pain of letting her go.
What makes me want to step even further into this mess is the last list, however. There’s a love I can’t explain which stems from my identity as a Jesus follower.
The following passage from the Apostle Paul gets at the heart of my motivation to do something that I have a lot of good reasons to avoid:“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, ESV)