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Quiz: Assess your spiritual maturity

by Dan Cruver Published Feb 18, 2015


*This is a guest post by Tony Merida.

Can you name an orphan?

That’s the only question on this quiz, but I failed the test.

I was never opposed to orphan care or being generous to the poor. I was just very indifferent. Sure, I had a sense of sympathy toward those who were weak and powerless; I saw the pictures and was moved. But I rarely acted.

Inevitably, I had to face the fact that sympathy is no substitute for action. My sporadic, momentary experiences of sympathy (for Ukrainian orphans and enslaved girls in the Philippines) didn’t help vulnerable children one bit.

Worse yet, I considered myself spiritually mature. I could name a lot of authors and famous preachers, and even knew many of them personally, but I couldn’t name an orphan.

Bad maturity metrics

In light of my orphan-less lifestyle, I began to reevaluate how I evaluate spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity isn’t merely something you do with your mind. It’s not about the books you read. It’s not about the conferences you attend or speak at. It’s about the life you live.

It’s possible to listen to ten podcasts weekly, and to sing with the hottest bands, and be in four Beth Moore Bible studies, but miss the call to care for the least of these—and all the while live in a deceived state of thinking you’re mature.

Shouldn’t we be looking at the life of Jesus and the heart of God as revealed in Scripture, instead of whether or not we are keeping up with the Christian subculture?

“The highest privilege that the gospel offers”

The doctrine of adoption is the Cinderella doctrine of Pauline theology. Books about salvation often emphasize justification, redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation, but speak cursorily—if at all—about adoption. This is unfortunate, because the doctrine of adoption is, in the words of J. I. Packer, “the highest privilege that the gospel offers” (Knowing God, 207).

When we fail to ponder the privileges of adoption, we miss so much. It provides incredible hope and assurance to God’s people. The doctrine of adoption also inspires prayer and worship to God. And it reminds us of how we should relate to one another in the church: as adopted brothers and sisters.

Paul uses the word “adoption” in Ephesians, Galatians, and Romans, though the concept is taught elsewhere (including in the Old Testament—Israel was “God’s son”). Paul shows us that God the Father administered our adoption, God the Son accomplished our adoption, and God the Spirit applied our adoption, giving us a new nature, a new position, and the indwelling presence of God that enables us to cry, “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6).

God is an adoptive Father—by choice. Adoption was never Plan B for God. It wasn’t an alternative solution. It was Plan A. Before the universe existed, God planned on adopting us into His family (Eph. 1:5).

Why did God adopt us?

Because He is gracious and merciful. God didn’t adopt us because of our attractive merits, but because of His amazing mercy. Therefore, when Paul tells us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children,” part of that means reflecting the adopting love of God to a world in need (Eph. 5:1).

Certainly, not everyone is called to adopt, and not every orphan is available for adoption; but every believer is called to imitate God.

More hard questions

Considering all of this led me to take a more honest look at my own life. If God is a father to the fatherless, and I am to reflect Him in every way, then doesn’t that mean I should care for the fatherless too?

If “true religion” involves caring for orphans in their affliction, as James 1:27 says, then what kind of religion am I practicing if it doesn’t involve some measure of orphan care?

Am I neglecting “the weightier matters” of doing justice and mercy like the Pharisees that frustrated Jesus (Matt. 23:23)?

Have I turned into a polished professional pastor whose public life is far more impressive than my own personal life?

These questions haunted me. I began to see that in many ways the poorest of the poor were orphans, and there are millions of fatherless kids, not to mention the “functionally fatherless” in our neighborhoods.

This reality, coupled with the weight of numerous passages on the subject, led me to repentance and some life-altering decisions.

True religion

Long story short, my wife and I set out to meet some orphans. We ended up bringing a few home with us.

Sometimes people look at me funny when I’m with my Ukrainian son and my Ethiopian son, since they both call me “Papa.” Observers often have questions. As I talk with them, and eventually share that we have five adopted children, the most common question is “Why?”

What moved my heart the most was the doctrine of adoption. Of course, this isn’t what most people expect to hear. They expect to hear about infertility. But my wife and I were led to adopt because of theology not biology.

We’ve now passed on “the adoption bug” to our kids. Recently I was taking my son Joshua to baseball practice. He said, “Papa, when I get old, I want to adopt from every country. I want to adopt from Ukraine, Ethiopia, China, and Kentucky.”

He doesn’t understand everything about adoption, but Joshua already has a sensitivity to others in need. His little heart has already grasped the idea that those adopted should extend adopting love to others.

I don’t tell every Christian to adopt children. I do tell them to elevate their view of adoption, and to seriously consider it. Here’s my simple application: Every Christian must do something to care for the orphan.

Whether you’re involved with adoption, foster care, respite, or simply caring for the functionally fatherless in your community, the question every Christian must ask is, “What can I do to practice James 1:27?”

We all are not called to become adoptive parents, but we are all called to care for orphans. Orphan care is not for the exceptional Christians. It’s for the ordinary ones.

Get to know an orphan and get to know the God who adopted you.

For more on this topic, see Tony Merida’s new book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down.

Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of Ordinary, Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.


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