VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is at the New Wine Ireland summer conference in Sligo this week. She brings you summaries of all the Evening Celebrations and the morning Bible Teaching so you won’t miss a thing!
Tuesday 16 July
Krish Kandiah is the founding director of Home for Good, a charity seeking to find loving homes for vulnerable children in the care system. He is an advocate for fostering and adoption. Here’s what he had to share at #Sligo19 on Tuesday evening.
In Home for Good, we want to make sure that every child across the care system in the UK and Ireland has a loving home. That is born out of our experience of fostering and adoption. One Friday afternoon, we had a phone call. If you are a foster carer a phone call at 5.45pm on a Friday evening tends to be bad news - it means they are desperate. They said, “We know you have a full house but could you possibly take another child?”
My wife immediately said “yes” but I wanted more info, “What can you tell us about the child?” “All we can tell you is that he’s a biter.” My question was “What does he bite? If he bites stuff, that is one thing but if he bites people, that could be a problem.”
Then the Christian part of my brain kicked in. The part that reads the Bible and is sensitive the Holy Spirit. That part said, “a biter” is an inadequate description of a human being. When God looks at us, He doesn’t just see the worst thing we have done.
So in he came, this little boy was three years old and he had already had eight different families. Is there any wonder that he started to bite? Why do I tell you about this little boy? He represents thousands of kids and I want to help us go on a journey to see these children as God sees them.
“Robert” is four years old. He is in foster care. He has been waiting for someone to adopt him. He is in a little book called “be my parent” but he has a difficult bio. He has a speech delay. Sometimes at school he gets frustrated because he can’t communicate and that leads to difficult-to-manage behaviour. Most adopters read this and they lose interest.
Most adopters come forward because of infertility and when infertility is your driver towards adoption, you want a baby, a perfect baby who looks like you. People will turn the page and look for another child. The older he gets, the less likely he is to get adopted. People say, if he is difficult at four, then what will he look like at 15?
But what does God see when He looks at Robert?
Many people look at Robert’s history and write off his future. God sees redemption. God can turn the past around. He is a God of transformation. This is not Anne of Green Gables. 70% of children in the care system have suffered abuse. That won’t go away because of a few bedtime stories or prayers. There are no quick fixes. But God sees Robert’s potential.
A unique creation
Robert is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You might not feel like that tonight but that is what God sees. Every single human being is fearfully and wonderfully made. Let me be controversial. I think we need to be pro life as a church but pro life does not mean we only care for the unborn. Every single human being is precious and that means we have to care for five years olds like Robert as well as unborn babies.
“For God so loved the world...” Every single person on the planet is loved by God, irrespective of whether they are Protestant or Catholic, male or female, black or white. If God loves Robert, how should I feel about him? A friend of mine had a notice outside his house, “Love me, love my dog.” God has a similar sign... “Love me, love your neighbour.”
Made in the Image of God
Imagine if you were to spit on a picture of my family. I will be outraged. Symbolically, what you do to the image is an indicator of how you feel about the one in the picture. What you do to a “neighbour” made in the image of God is an indicator of how you feel about God Himself.
The Sheep and the Goats
Matthew 25: 31 - 46 - this is a controversial parable. If you consider yourself a “conservative” Christian you might be a bit jumpy about this parable. If you consider yourself a “progressive” Christian, this also might be a bit problematic. I feel I’m on safe ground, however, because in my Bible this bit is in red. If you have a problem, it is with Jesus, not with me - these are His words.
This is a parable about the final judgement. What will be the criteria for who is welcome in the kingdom and who is not? These are heavy words and they seem super controversial. Some people are saying, “Hold on, this doesn’t sound like the Gospel. Where is there a mention of grace and forgiveness? Did Jesus get it wrong?”
I believe ALL Scripture is inspired by God! So what is the relationship between good works and being saved because Jesus makes a connection here? It is important not to confuse causation with correlation.
As you drive past wind turbines and it might be possible to say, “Have you noticed when the turbines are turning, the weather gets more windy?” There is a link between wind speed and turbine speed but if you get it wrong way around you will say something stupid!
We are not saved by our good deeds but Ephesians 2:10 says we are created FOR good works. God wanted to pick you up, save you, redeem you and restore you so you might be an agent of grace. The mark that you are in the kingdom is how you have responded to the most vulnerable. The grace He has poured into you needs to pour out of you to those around. And it will happen so often that we hardly even notice!
The righteous ask, “When did we see you hungry or thirsty?” Jesus does not turn up in all His glory. He comes hidden in the poor and the lonely and the needy. He wants to see whether we really love Him.
There is a story told about an elderly widow. She is incredibly rich. She notices that there is a young nephew who keeps turning up whenever she is ill. How does she know if it is really compassion or whether it is greed? She puts on old clothes and disguises herself as a homeless person to find out how he will respond to her as a stranger…
Jesus is telling us this parable to help us know whether the transforming grace of God has done its work. Has it changed the way you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger and the sick?
I can see why my conservative friends are nervous but this is still the Gospel of grace! Surely those who are forgiven much will love much… by demonstrating His love to the “least of these.”
The progressives are also nervous because Jesus mentions the “h” word here - hell. Being concerned about justice, helping the poor, demonstrating compassion is not a side issue. Why does Jesus talk about eternal punishment? Does He want to scare people into the kingdom? Some people seem to enjoy talking about hell and judgement. That spirit in not in Jesus. He is the most loving person but He talks about eternal punishment for the same reason that we have one rule in our household... do not lick the plug sockets!
Jesus loves you and He wants you to know what’s at stake. Jesus doesn’t focus on your brokenness and your sin, He sees someone He loves and died for.
There is someone else you should see in Robert - Jesus Himself! What we do for the least of these, we do for Him!.
Note: There are 6,000 children in care in ROI and over 3,000 in NI. When we look at these children and we see their vulnerability, we know that God’s heart is broken and He wants to set them in loving families.