As Christians we are called to love and serve God with all of who we are. In Mark 12:30 Jesus reiterates an Old Testament commandment when He says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Scripture is not advocating compartmentalizing the ways in which we love and serve God, as if we can turn the soul off and move into the mind category, or momentarily set aside the strength compartment while we operate out of the heart. Rather, the Old Testament charge quoted in the New Testament by Jesus is a timeless, holistic one, meant to illustrate thatno part of who we are is exempt from being used to know and love God, and all parts are simultaneously used together as one in serving Him.
A HEAD, HEART AND HANDS FAITH
To simplify the idea, think of the Christian faith as being rooted in the command to know, love and serve God with ourHEAD (mind), our HEART (heart/soul) and our HANDS (strength).
These three dimensions – head, heart and hands – are not mutually exclusive or isolated from one another. Rather, each feed and sustains the others by helping form a unified and “fully integrated” self.
When taken in isolation our faith becomes fragmented, over-accentuating one dimension to the neglect of the others. For example, if our faith is primarily HEAD-based, we may know a lot about Him - what He says, what He enjoys, where He goes, etc. - without ever really knowing Him. That's stalking. It's creepy. There's a lot of God stalkers in the Church today. Or, if our faith is primarily HAND-based we may do a lot for God but never really know Him. The duty of doing for Him replaces the delight of knowing and savoring Him. Or, if our faith is primarily HEART-based we may experience very emotional, mystical moments with God but never actually do anything for Him. We like the romance but not the commitment. That's using someone for your own personal benefit. No one wants to be in a relationship like that.
Jesus exposes the fragmented faith of people on several occasions in Scripture, with one of the most notable being found in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me…’
In other words, some will give their time and energy to the things of God but will never actually give their lives to Him. That's a terrifying reality that should cause us all to pause and consider.
We could go on. The point, however, is that by themselves none of these dimensions can do justice to the fullness of the capacity God has given us to know and love and serve Him with our whole selves. Our faith must not be fragmented, but rather a fully integrated make-up of the whole of who we are otherwise our aptitude (head), affections (heart) and actions (hands) can never be fully utilized to the capacity God intended.
FULLY-INTEGRATED ORPHAN CARE
Why talk about knowing, loving and serving God in a fully integrated way? Because this will act as the framework through which we respond to His mandate to care for the marginalized, oppressed and orphaned around us. It’s simply not enough to know God’s heart on the matter (head) and never do anything about it (hands), or to feel strongly about the issues of justice (heart) with no real grasp on the biblical call to care for orphans (head).
Some hold to right beliefs about orphan care but their actions are not following suit. They know all the Bible verses about caring for orphans, but they don't know any orphans. Some are very emotionally invested - they "feel bad" for orphans - but they do not have a biblical grasp on what God feels, why He feels that way and how He puts those feelings into action. Others may be sincerely concerned about matters of justice - they post every link to every blog and video on Facebook about human trafficking, abortion, adoption, poverty and clean water - but their intent is to make sure others know how passionate they are, not necessarily to really do anything about it. Some of this is hard to swallow, I know, but it's the reality in which we live and the context through which we have to decide whether we are really going to engage the causes of God in a fully-integrated way or not.
At the end of the day, if we pursue the care of the abused, neglected and orphaned in a fragmented way, our right thoughts will only get us so far, our passionate emotions will last but a while and our good works will eventually become exhausting efforts. The only sustainable way for us to respond by faith to what God is calling us to do is to be fully integrated in our approach, with right beliefs, right emotions and right actions working in harmony with one another. Then when one part is weak (say for instance the work is exceptionally draining emotionally and we are tempted to quit) the others will help guide and sustain and carry us through (our belief that the work is pleasing to God and worth it will motivate us to keep going). The last thing marginalized, neglected, abused and orphaned children need is people who are partially committed to them - people who may, at any moment, abandon their cause because it is no longer romantic, or they're questioning whether or not it's worth it, or it's costing them too much or it's requiring too much of them emotionally.
This is not to say that it won't be hard, because in most cases it will be. This is also not to say that there may be seasons where you just need to step back, rest and recalibrate before moving forward. Sometimes you may need to. This is to say, however, that while no one will ever fully be "ready" to engage in orphan care, that certainly does not negate the responsibility we have to approach the cause in a responsible, holistic, realistic way.
THE "ALL-IN ORPHAN CARE" CURRICULUM
A unique feature of the soon to be released "ALL IN Orphan Care" Curriculum is it's fully-integrated approach to equipping and mobilizing the Church to care for the marginalized, abused and orphaned.Throughout the study group members will be asked to apply the ideas they are learning and discussing in each session through the Head-Heart-Hands Paradigm:
- HEAD: What biblical truth did you learn from this?
- HEART: What do the ideas we are discussing make you think and feel?
- HANDS: What are you going to do in response to what we have learned?
The intent of the study is to lead us all into a further developing understanding of what it means for us as individuals, groups, churches and communities to go "all in" with our love for Jesus and care of the marginalized, abused, neglected and orphaned. We owe it to ourselves and to those we will be serving to be as prepared as possible.