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Orphan Care and a Theology of Discomfort

by Dan Cruver Published Jun 11, 2010

In his book The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for Third Culture Leaders, Dave Gibbons (one of our keynote speakers) writes some helpful thoughts about the relationship between orphan care and a theology of discomfort:

The soul of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment leans into difficult people and their complexities. It’s to be the essence of who we are as Christians. In fact, unity of mind and generosity of spirit in the midst of diversity is the distinguishing mark of true Christian community.

It’s a bold, radical endeavor: to love our neighbor. But it’s the endeavor God has called us to. It’s where the gospel becomes real. It really speaks to the power of Jesus if we can work through our discomfort and overcome the barriers we too easily let divide us.

This concept, this theology of discomfort, can be seen throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments. So much so it makes me realize how often we can know what is right but practice what is merely expedient.

Throughout the Old Testament we hear that we are to radically love outsiders, widows, and orphans, to act as a voice for the voiceless, and to be a father to the fatherless. In Corinthians we see God saying he focuses on the weak of this world to speak to the mighty. In John 14, Jesus explains to the disciples that obeying him and loving the “least of these” in society give us deep understanding about him and his ways (p. 82, emphasis mine).

Scripture’s theology of discomfort moves us not further from the good life, but deeper into it. As I wrote yesterday, theology is actually a sharing in the mutual knowing of the Father and the Son. It is a real participation in the communion of love that the Holy Trinity is. But we must realize that our participation in the love of the Father and the Son does not remove us from the pain and tragedy of our world.

When the eternal Son became man, he ushered his communion with the Father into the depths of our sin, pain, and suffering (see Mark 14:36). Far from Jesus’ communion with his Father detaching him from the brokenness of our world, it brought him into the very heart of it in order that he might heal us through his death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ redemptive achievement in our place and on our behalf, then, is why “obeying him and loving the ‘least of these’ in society give us deep understanding about him and his ways.” This is the good life.

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