When God opened my eyes: The grace of exposure and the need for orphan care

November 10, 2017

In his book Radical, David Platt says, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

When I read this book years ago, I believed this statement, and my belief terrified me. I was also relatively certain that I would never be part of a category of people who held orphans, and sadly, that gave me relief from my fear. I knew that if I ever met an orphan, ever held one, that everything would indeed change. I knew that and feared it, but slept comfortably at night in desired and blissful ignorance. I didn’t want my world to change.

When God opened my eyes

But God confronted my ignorance with his truth. He illuminated my darkness (Psa. 18:28). In his goodness, God gave me what I thought I didn’t want. He gave me a great grace, the grace of exposure. He opened my eyes to show me something that I didn’t want to see. He exposed me to orphans, and the thing that I feared came true; everything did change.

In a recent conversation with my pastor, Tony Merida, he said, “Once you hold an orphan, you’re done.”  He’s right. It happened to me. Two years ago, I flew to Africa and held my first orphan. I’ve held many since then, but nothing could have prepared me for the change that followed.

God exposed me to orphans, and the thing that I feared came true; everything did change.

My priorities were new. I restructured my spending so I could support local leaders caring for orphans. I started going on mission trips to visit orphans in Kenya and Uganda. I began to advocate on behalf of their needs. I started working for 127 Worldwide, a nonprofit that partners with local leaders around the world taking care of orphans and widows. I’m adopting from Uganda. I pray for God to sustain the fatherless (Psa. 146:9). I do all this because God opened my eyes to see their plight.

Instead of being scared to see them, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Instead of being afraid of what they might ask of me, I wanted to give them everything. Instead of focusing on all the ways they were vulnerable, I began to feel fiercely protective of them. Instead of thinking of them as someone else’s responsibility, I wanted them to be mine. In his grace, God changed me.

What exposure changes

God illuminates what the prince of this world covers in darkness. We don’t look at what we don’t want to see. We protect our ignorance so we don’t have to be confronted with our responsibility to care for orphans (James 1:27). Engaging the global orphan crisis is hard. It requires sacrifice. We may already be taking care of our own children. We are content to live in blissful ignorance. We naively assume someone else will go, someone else will help. But others can’t obey for us.

Through the grace of exposure, God changes us into people who desire to care for orphans. As God transforms us he receives more glory. He changes us into people who see the vulnerable as fellow image bearers and not as burdens. God uses exposure to awaken our spirits to what the world ignores.

The problem with change is that we only want it if we can control it. We’d love for our lives to change in ways that benefit us. God is for that, too. But sin often blinds us from what is best for us. God sees what’s best, and in his grace, exposes us to it. I spent years thinking that taking care of orphans was good, but not necessarily commanded. I heard the Word, but did not do the Word (James 1:22). I thought God wouldn’t ask it of me since I have several biological children. In my ignorance, I thought I knew what was best for me. I was wrong.

We are his, and he is for us. He wants to change our lives for our joy and for his glory. And in his goodness, he knows that what’s most beneficial for us is to be conformed to the image of his Son. I’m so grateful to my God for exposing me to what is best for me, for showing me the joy of obedience, particularly in an area where I was afraid to release control. I’m thankful to know that my life is enriched, that my joy is greater, and that my God is glorified because I care for the vulnerable. As an image bearer, it is my joy to care for orphans and show them the Father who never abandons his sons and daughters.

In his book Orphan Justice, Johnny Carr says,

It is not as if I—or the church as a whole—was hard-hearted and didn’t care about the plight of orphans. I simply did not know the enormity of the problems. No one had seriously engaged the issue of orphan care in any of the churches or schools I attended. But in this case, ignorance is not bliss. Millions of kids around the world are hurting in ways we cannot imagine, and we are called to respond with compassionate care.

We can’t use ignorance as an excuse. Our ignorance is costly to orphans. We must pray to our Father, the Father of the fatherless (Psa. 68:5), to open our eyes to the plight of orphans and to give us hearts that mirror his heart for them. We must pray for the grace of exposure.

Exposure graciously placed me in a category of people who hold orphans. Caring for orphans once seemed a burden to me, now it brings me joy. This former orphan, adopted by God and made an heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), has been changed, and is changing, from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). My heart delights in this obedience.

Exposure to the needs around us leads to awareness.  And God uses this awareness to change our hearts—for our good and his glory. We don’t need to fear or avoid exposure, like I did. Instead, we must welcome it as a grace and a means to more than we could ask or imagine.

Christy Britton

Christy Britton is married to Stephen and is a homeschool mom to 4 fantastic boys. Her family worships and serves as covenant members of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. She is a justice seeker and orphan advocate at 127 Worldwide. In her minuscule free time, she loves reading, writing, hospitality, gospel conversations, good … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24