A World Full of Orphans
When Jesus was leaving the world, on the night before He was crucified, He told his disciples, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you." (John 14:18). That happened in the coming of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. What is an orphan? An orphan is one who has no father and mother.
We are fascinated by stories of orphans, especially when those orphans suffer and still succeed. Our book shelves are full with them. There is Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Pip, a young gentleman of Great Expectations. Charlotte Bronte, an orphan, introduced Jane Eyre. James Whitcomb Riley inspired over a century of comics, radio, theater, and film with these words:
Little Orphan Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an' keep...
Also you have super-orphans like Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman, Storm, and Wolverine. Book sales for another redheaded orphan who insisted her name be spelled "Anne" with an "e" surpassed 50 million by 2008. But even Anne of Green Gables is outdone nearly ten to one in total sales by the most successful fiction publishing venture of all time, chronicling the coming of age of the orphan "boy who lived." In fact, Daniel Radcliffe had played two orphans -- David Copperfield for the BBC and Harry Potter for movie audiences everywhere -- by the time he was twelve.
To what extent do real-life orphans parallel their fictional counterparts? Aristotle, Cyrus the Great, Edgar Allen Poe, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ingrid Bergman, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nelson Mandela, Marilyn Monroe, the Muslim prophet Muhammad, Malcolm X, Leo Tolstoy, William Wordsworth, and John Lennon were all orphans.
In the eyes of many, these people were successful as far as human standards are concerned. But the sociologists Steven Nock and Chris Einolf summarize research on children with deceased or absent fathers:
Such children do less well in school than children of two-parent families, have more emotional and behavioral problems, have worse physical health, are more likely to use drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, and are more likely to become delinquent; teenage girls in single-mother households are more likely to become pregnant, and teenage boys in single-mother households are more likely to become teen fathers. In the long run, adults who grew up in single-mother households attain lower levels of education, earn less, are more likely to be incarcerated, are more likely to have out-of-wedlock births, and are more likely to be divorced
Now I understand that not all go in the direction that many have. And thank God for it!
But there is a lot of difference between a child, who has grown up in a home experiencing the love of a father and mother, and a child who has had no father or mother. Orphans tend to be insecure because they have not experienced love in their childhood, the love that only a father and mother can give.
And when there is this type of insecurity due to the lack of love, orphans tend to be very defensive. They tend to feel that the world is against them, that people are against them, and that they must defend themselves. They become introverted, depressed, discouraged, and jealous of others who have more than them. They become very possessive in friendships because of insecurity. They want somebody to love only them and nobody else. We should not judge orphans who are like this. They can remain the same even when they are 40 or 50 years old, because, way back in childhood, they never experienced the love of a father or mother.
So back to our scripture today:
What did Jesus mean when he said, 'I will not leave you orphans?'
Spiritually speaking, we can say that the world is full of orphans, because they don't have a Father; they don't have God as a Father. They don't know God as a Father or Mary as Mother. So, all the characteristics that you find in ordinary physical orphans, you find in these spiritual orphans. The world is full of people who are insecure; who feel that others are against them. So they fight, they defend themselves, they are very possessive. It is like that because they are spiritually orphans. They love money because they are insecure. They have no heavenly Father. They are anxious. They are worried.
Jesus sought so much, during His earthly ministry, to impress upon His disciples the fact that God was a loving Father. He taught them to pray, "Our Father." No person in the Old Testament could ever pray like that. He said, 'When you pray, say, "Our Father,"' and after His resurrection, He said, 'My Father is your Father.' There is a beautiful verse in John 1:18 To paraphrase the verse it says, "No one has seen God at any time. But Jesus came and explained Him to us." In other words, Jesus, by His life and His teaching, has explained to us what God is like.
You know, the world is full of people who have never seen God. None of us have seen God. That is what it says in that verse. When we have not seen God, it is like a man who has never seen an elephant. Supposing you were to go to some country, where there is some child who has, maybe, seen pictures of lions and tigers, but has never seen an elephant or a picture of one. If you ask that child to draw a picture of an elephant, what do you think that elephant would look like? Do you think any child in the world will ever think of drawing a long nose, which we call a trunk? No, because there is no other animal that has one quite like it. They will draw something that looks like a lion or a dog, or like most animals with four legs, but nobody will be able to draw an elephant, if he has not seen an elephant or a picture of one. How can you imagine one?
If that would happen with an animal that God created, can you draw a correct picture of God? No, your picture will definitely be wrong. We have so many people who have given their own opinions about God. And what is the result? Today we have so many religions, each with their own ideas of what God is like. It is like two hundred people who have never seen an elephant or a picture of one, trying to draw an elephant. Who is right? Every one of them is wrong. But the man who has seen an elephant, he will be able to draw a correct one. When Jesus came from heaven, He was the only person who could tell us what God is like.
Most people's idea of God is that of a very strict person, who is out to catch you for some small mistake you do. He is presented as one who waits around a corners to see if you have violation or broken some rule. They think God is like that; just waiting and hiding on the corner, to pounce on you as soon you make some mistake. So, most people live in the wrong type of fear of God. They are afraid that God will punish them or harm them. In every religion, there are preachers and teachers, and priests who capitalize on this fear that people have. They say that you have to please this god in some way or the other, otherwise he will punish you. Also you will find In almost every religion, including the Christian religion, priests and preachers say that the way to please God is by giving Him money.
So, some people will give lots of money. Only to line the pockets of these religious wolves. It is all to capitalize on the weakness of orphan-like people, knowing that they have some type of guilt feeling or fear, and making them give their money. It is a great deception. Jesus came to remove this concept of God from people.
Jesus said God is a loving Father. God is interested in you, and not in your money. He is interested in helping you.
A father is always trying to help his children. He feeds them, clothes them, educates them, spends money on them, and gets nothing in return except to be able to see his children's well being. Jesus revealed God as a Father. When you feel that God is like a CEO of a company, running the things from a distance whom you never see, you have got the wrong concept of God. And you are an orphan. The result is that there is a lot of insecurity, anxiety, fear, tension in your life, which you do not have to have in your life.
Jesus said look at the birds of the air, who feeds them? They don't have a barn, they don't have a storehouse, and yet how many dead birds due to hunger do you see on the road? How is it they don't all starve to death? Our Heavenly Father feeds them. They are not worried. And Jesus said, 'Don't you think you are of more value than many sparrows.'
There is a little story about two little birds, sitting on a tree, (No, not K-I-s-s-I-n-g!) and talking to one another. One bird was asking the other bird, 'Why do you think these human beings are so anxious and worried all the time? They always seem to be so tensed in their life.' The other bird replied, 'I think the reason is that they don't have a heavenly Father like we have. We are okay because our Heavenly Father provides us something.' Isn't it a shame when Christians are anxious and worried?
You know, when we are anxious and worried it makes us irritable. It makes us tense; it makes us strike back at people who we suspect are striking at us. The person who is secure in God is never disturbed by whatever people say. Supposing you are walking down the road, and a dog keeps on barking from inside a locked gate, or even barking from the other side of the road, what are you going to do? Are you going to argue with that dog? Are you going fight with that dog asking, 'Why do you bark at me?' It is as foolish when you go and start arguing with somebody who is accusing you, calling you names, or telling false stories about you.
What should you do? Just leave him alone. But if you are insecure and you are like an orphan you won't be able to do that. You will be tense, you will be worried and you will just go and fight with that dog. That is how many people fight and argue with people who are calling them bad names. This is all the result of insecurity. But how was it with Jesus, when people called Him the prince of devils? He just left them alone. They accused him. They said all types of things about him, He just left them alone, it did not bother Him one bit.
So the most important thing for us is to know God as a Father. He loves you. He cares for you. He knows every detail of your life. If you have been born again through baptism and opened you heart to Jesus Christ, God has become your Father. And knowing Him as Father will make all the difference in your life.