For the great majority of the world, orphaned does not mean parentless. In fact, just the opposite is true: only about 20% of orphans are biological orphans; the vast majority of children we call orphans have parents. But they have been abandoned, have run away to escape abuse, or have been removed from their homes because of abuse, exploitation, or neglect.
I don’t like these parents—and that is really not strong enough to express how I feel. The one critical task they have been given in life—TAKE CARE OF YOUR CHILD—they have failed. And, more often than not, it is not just that they did not do well by their kids, they usually actively chose to hurt them. We all have a problem when we see this.
So I am justified in my anger toward them. But scripture says that even as I act to protect the innocent, I am still to love those who abused and exploited them.
I don’t think so.
But scripture is very clear on the matter. And, for the sake of the children, we must not only love these parents, we must be agents of redemption in their lives.
For the sake of the children.
At our weekly chapel service at the City of Youth, when we come to the part of the service where there might typically be an offertory, the children are invited to bring their “offerings” to the front of the auditorium and place them in a large bowl. But these offerings are not monetary; they are hand-written prayers. Some kids have hastily scribbled a line or two while others have poured out their hearts in long letters to God. Senior staff then takes each of these offerings and pray over them.
One request dominates these written prayers—a plea for family members. The children understand that they have been given a great gift—the life transforming love and grace of God—and they want their families to experience what they have come to know. The same families that abandoned, abused, or exploited them.
And what we have found is that forgiving, praying for, and loving their offending parents is a huge step of healing for our kids. Time and time again we have seen forgiveness, families restored, and children made whole when they reached the point when they could love those who had evilly used them.
And so we continue to learn the hard lesson: truly loving the children means we love their parents, too.