Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven

Loving without Borders

By Kersley Fitzgerald

"Why didn't you adopt from this country? There are so many needy children here."

"We need to solve poverty here in the USA before we worry about people in other countries."

These are really interesting comments to me. It's weird how a simple statement or question can rile up feelings of guilt, defensiveness, and puzzlement all at the same time. It's a belief commonly thrown out at foreign missions workers, foreign aids proponents, and international adoptive parents: You're responsibility is to people in this country. Why are you giving your money/attention/sacrificial love to a foreigner?

It's been several years since the counter-thought came to me: I am a child of the King, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. What do national borders have to do with showing Christ's love to people?

I've admitted before, I am a Gen-Xer with a few post-modern leanings. One of those leanings is skepticism toward loyalty to a group or corporation. That includes my country. America is not sacred. I have more in common with the poorest Dalit Christian in India than I do with my unbelieving next door neighbor.

The trip to the Dominican Republic drove that home. We were seen as brothers and sisters in Christ who are joining in the real work of saving children in Jesus' name. There was no ethnicity or nationality. There were volleyball players and basketball players, musicians and computer geeks, early-birds and slow-pokes. But if we were ever seen as American, it was tertiary to two more important aspects of our identity: we were Christians, and we were there.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
When Dev and I first got serious about the adoption process, our first thought was to adopt a Native American child. Now, there are many reasons people adopt. Some want a baby. Some want to make an impact in the world. Some fall for a specific child. Our reasoning was simpler: we had a house and a family and somewhere there was a child who didn't have a house or a family and if we brought them home, they would have a house and a family. It seemed to us at the time that somewhere there was a Native American kid who might have a need we could fill.

When we learned about the drama involved in adopting a Native American child, we backed out. That left foster-adopt, domestic baby adoption, and international.

Foster-adopt is not just a lifestyle, it is a calling, and we didn't feel called. Adopting an infant domestically didn't sound right, either. So we decided to go international. We'd be moving mid-way through the adoption process, and we wouldn't be attached to any particular state. And we didn't care what the kid looked like — the kid was himself, and would look like himself, not like what we thought would look good in a family Christmas photo.

In that respect, it didn't matter where the kid was from. We felt obliged to add a kid who needed a home to our home. God is sovereign over all the world, not just the U.S. We didn't even consider that we would have a duty to "care for our own." We didn't have any "our own"! How could competing with a dozen other couples to adopt that one American baby be a higher calling than accepting a random (not with God!) child from another place? Love is shown, a child has a home, and we still have to argue with him to take a bath!
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
The same sentiment was expressed to the team when we reported on our trip with Compassion International to the Dominican Republic. Shouldn't we stamp out poverty here before we worry about the foreign kids overseas? The kids who die from mosquito bites and have absolutely no clean water and have to pick through the trash for food?

To take a page from Paul's book, this is who those criticisms were aimed at: A college student who has cared for many of the practical needs of her family since she was 13. A teacher who barely makes gas money. A volunteer AWANA commander. A youth group volunteer. Someone who started her own ministry mentoring teens through writing. And never got paid for it. A volunteer with a sex-trafficking recovery ministry. A pastor who spends his free time writing and directing plays with kids. A preschool special needs teacher. A woman finishing up her masters in counseling.

There was no one on that trip who was not sacrificing to meet needs in their home country.
"Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." Luke 10:36-37
Where does this whole "take care of your own" come from, anyway? My friend, Alan Cross, touches on it in his book When Heaven and Earth Collide. Nationalism seeps in when other group loyalties (religion, family, tribe) fail to provide the comfort and community they used to. It's very possible that nationalism in the U.S. could have started in the South, when slavery was threatened. Suddenly, people of different religions, backgrounds, and ethnicities (as long as they were European) had to join together under a single flag. Alexander Motyl, in the Encyclopedia of Nationalism says it comes from three needs: the need of an individual to join with others to ensure his own security, goods, and regional defense.

That makes sense, but it doesn't have anything to do with Christians.

Jesus gave us another way. A way that was so foreign to the apostles, it took them years to understand. It is the sheet with the food. Everything is clean to those who are clean. Brothers and sisters in Christ are closer than family members who reject him (Matthew 12:50). There was no nation that was more nationalistic than the Jews (even when they didn't have their own nation). The Gospel is a crowbar that breaks that seal.

Why should we concentrate on the needy here? More economical? I don't know of any child in America who can have a drastically better life for $38/month. Better safety for ourselves? What about the little girl who is steps away from being trafficked because her family has no food? Because we have a loyalty to 'Mercans?

Don't recall reading that one in the beatitudes.

Image Credit: One of three houses our youth group (and friends) built in four days during their annual missions trip in Tecate, Mexico — where a 400-sq ft home means the world.

TagsControversial-Issues  |  Ministry-Church  |  Personal-Life  |  Political-Issues

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Published 4-30-2014