Orphans and Widows

by Lois Tverberg

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless
is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 1:27

orphans tucked in

Knowing that the scriptures say that we should “look after orphans and widows,” how can we do that today? In James’ time there were many women and children whose families were torn apart because of the death of a husband or father. In that day, if a child had a mother but lacked a father, he or she still was considered an orphan, because in that society, the single-parent family would be impoverished and unable to survive without help from others. Now it may seem that the need is not so urgent when relatively few men die before old age, and with better economic times, especially for women.

But one contemporary Jewish writer points out that our modern society has an ever-growing abundance of a different kind of orphan, which are those whose families have been broken by divorce. With so many marriages dissolving and children born outside of marriage, a large proportion of our young people are now growing up lacking either a father or mother, or changing parents with each relationship. They may not lack financially, but may be impoverished in terms of having the family structure and life experience that allow them to form stable relationships and raise families of their own. They may have no one to serve as model of how a parent or spouse should act, so are likely to pass this sad legacy on to the next generation too.

Almost every family, church and neighborhood has an abundance of “orphans” of this type. We can all name relatives and neighbors who could use a “big brother” or “big sister,” who could benefit from our love. And many divorced people, singles and elderly long to be connected into the family of Christ, like widows long for a husband. How hard is it for those of us with stable lives to befriend someone from a broken family? God says that he especially watches over the “widow and the orphan,” and bids us to do likewise (Deut. 10:18). Rather than protesting against the lack of family values today, we would do more to help stabilize future marriages by enfolding a few young people into our own families, to show them that they are truly loved.

(1) J. Telushkin, The Book of Jewish Values, (c) 2000, Bell Tower, New York, ISBN 0609603302, p. 70-71.

Photo: Information of Photo Division 

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

by Lois Tverberg

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

What is a “peacemaker,” and why should he or she be called a “son of God”? With all the anger and broken relationships in the world, we can imagine how important healing is from a person who helps others be reconciled. And anyone who extends peace in a situation where they are in conflict with another knows that it usually is costly — they often need to concede their own rights and put aside hurts that don’t feel resolved.

Shalom on EarthUnderstanding the whole meaning of the Hebrew word shalom, peace, adds greatly to the picture of the peacemaker. Shalom doesn’t just mean a harmonious relationship or the absence of war. Rather, it refers to one’s entire well-being and wholeness. A person can bring shalom to a life by helping deal with hurts and fix wounds of all kinds — essentially, trying to restore life to all that it was intended to be.

Why does Jesus say that they will be “sons of God”? In his culture, an assumption behind the word “son” was that a son shared the characteristics of his father, and grew up to be like him. When Jesus was called a “son of David,” it meant that he was a great king like David. In a similar way, Paul declares those with faith the “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). Likewise, for a human being to be called a “son of God” meant that he or she was an imitator of God and acted as he does. Jesus says a similar thing later:

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matt 5:44-45.

By giving up his son Jesus to bring peace between sinners and himself, God is the best example of one who pays a costly price for peace. This is the kind of peacemaking that we are called to as sons and daughters of God.

Photo: Barbara Carr