AFL 2010 live blog: Russell D. Moore

Communications Staff — February 26, 2010

Russell D. Moore is the senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Luke 9:44-51

Moore recounted revealing to his 8-year-old son the reality of slavery that used to be present in the United States. His son was totally incredulous. “How could anyone practice slavery?” “How could anyone fight for slavery?”

It is interesting to note that they are times when people blindly go along in life, oblivious to something like slavery that goes on around them and that they even support. Things like this happen around us all the time.

Some of you in this room have adopted, some are thinking about adoption, some have been adopted, some are here to learn how to promote adoption in your local church and some of you are called to work in the foster care system right where you are.

The question that all of you must consider is, when we are talking about orphan care are we talking about something different than the Gospel? When slavery was a reality, there were people who said, “We are not going to focus on slavery, we are going to focus on the Gospel.”

If you do not speak to those things that Jesus says are the sum and substance of the Gospel: love of God and love of neighbor, then you cannot preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching Christ and Him crucified means you must preach Christ and what it means to follow after Christ. And preaching Christ does not mean that you merely preach about who Christ is and what He did, you must be crucified along with Christ. You must be crucified with Christ as you do your orphan care and as you practice adoption.

What does the Bible say about orphan care and the crucified Gospel?

This is the question that you must answer when it comes to orphan care and adoption.

When Jesus would speak about the fact that He would have to die, His disciples did not want to hear about it. His disciples did not understand and they did not want to understand. In Luke 9, you have an argument arising among Jesus’s disciples about who is the greatest. This looks like a bare, haughty move to us, but it probably did not seem that way to them. Jesus had already given the disciples power to cast out demons and heal people. Jesus’s disciples were likely talking about Kingdom service and discussing who had the most zeal among them to proclaim, “Jesus is King.”

But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, called a child to stand by Him. What is critically important to everybody in this room that God is calling to orphan care is to understand why Jesus did this. Jesus put the child by His side and said, “Whoever receives this child, receives me.” Why does Jesus do this?

They have already seen Moses and Elijah by Jesus’s side. Now they see a child. Now Jesus puts a child right were Moses and Elijah were standing and he shows the disciples that any identity, ministry and initiative that they have must be derived by and from Jesus Himself. Jesus says the issue here is not about the power and the greatness of the people involved or about the ministry, it is about Christ.

You must become as the least: that is the one who is great.

In order to carry out the Gospel, you must see what God is doing in Christ and you must have a transformation of the imagination. Whether that is in conversation with your children, or the people in your congregation or out on the mission field, Jesus understands that wherever we are, the human heart is going to go toward self-exaltation. Jesus knows what is going on in our hearts, but He does not leave us there.

Jesus here is speaking to the imagination of His followers and He is showing them here with the presence of this child that the issue is, in order to follow after a crucified Jesus and to announce a Kingdom of a crucified Jesus, there must be crucified followers.

If we are going to have Gospel-centered orphan care, we must stop having the perspective that we are rescuing orphans from impoverished situations to bring them into a white, middle class American home. If we have that perspective, we are not bringing Gospel-centered help and care to orphans.

We are not the solution to the orphan crisis. The cross is the solution to the orphan crisis and the cross is the solution to our crisis.

Malaria kills and we must fight malaria. Aids kills and we must fight Aids. But prosperity kills and we must recognize that too. Moving children from suffering to prosperity is not enough and we must recognize that.

We must turn ourselves and our attention toward the cross, reminding ourselves that we are the people who are following after the man who is classified as a terrorist, staked to a stake and left to drown in His own blood. We must have the perspective not of being the rescuers of the world, but of being the rescued who love and receive those who have been given to us.

We must become orphans before we become orphan ministers.

You and I have to be driven to adoption and orphan care because we believe the Gospel. We are the people who were abandoned and given up on, but who were found and who were found through the cross and the empty tomb.

That means a humbling of ourselves as we see ourselves as bought by blood.

Jesus says you must see yourselves in the cross before you proclaim to others the cross. It is a crucified Gospel.

Why does Jesus choose the child? Because everyone would have seen this child as a waste of time. The disciples were probably thinking, “Why would you waste your time on this child, when you have a Roman empire to take over, when you have synagogue rulers waiting to talk to you?”

Ministering to a baby who will die in the next 30 days, who will never be around to give a testimony, is it worth it to receive that child? Absolutely. That is not a waste of time. Jesus says, “Let the little children come unto me.” What is ultimately and really important is Jesus and in the faces of the least of these Jesus says “I am there.”

It is a Gospel issue to receive the least of these.

It would seem as though love of neighbor is an issue that is entirely separate from the Gospel. Believe and love God? That directly relates to the Gospel. But love of neighbor? Surely that is a separate issue, right?

Often we interact with people in a way that is driven by self-justification. We seek to justify ourselves in our interaction with others instead of loving them. The Gospel blows self-justification away. Love of neighbor relates directly to the Gospel.

Jesus announces, “All things are made new: come and follow me.” That is the message we proclaim.

The mission of God is not dependent on us.

We have to see and welcome those who the culture says are marginal.

The mission of God is coming, crucifying this imagination and removing this kind of haughtiness that says, “We will carry on the mission.” God will remove this haughtiness by using Nigerian Pentecostals who don’t have a dime to their name to save people and God will say, “That is just the way I like it.”

The reason why it is so difficult for us to see why orphan care is so important, the reason why I didn’t want to adopt, is because I wanted first to have children of my own. I wanted my own genetic material. I wanted my own biological pattern. I was haughty, self-exalting and absolutely unaware that God doesn’t owe me fulfilling my life plan for the rest of my life. Instead, His plan for my life is to conform me to the image of Christ.

Not all of you in this room are called to adopt. Not all of you in this room are called to start an orphan care ministry in your church.

But all of us in this room are called to recognize the face of Jesus in the least of these. And all of us in this room are crucified people ministering to a crucified cosmos in the name of a crucified Messiah who nonetheless lives by the power of God.

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