Our local news media have been sensationalizing a story over the past few months about a young woman who gave birth to a little girl and immediately wrapped the infant in a thin towel and abandoned it on a canal bank near the home she shared with her parents. The baby was discovered by a farmer and his dog who were working nearby less than an hour later. No one knew who the mother was for several weeks and the baby became known as "Baby Angel" because one of the rescue workers commented that an angel must have led the dog to find her.
There are several tragedies in the case of Baby Angel, but this isn't about her specifically. We in the church, yes even in The Salvation Army, are guilty of child abandonment. How many times have we seen new people come into our meetings, be moved by the Holy Spirit to make a life-changing commitment there, and then drift away afterward to an unknown fate? There are similarities with Baby Angel.
Baby Angel's mother said that she did not even know she was pregnant until she went into labor. That is why she and her parents did not make preparations for the coming child. There was no nursery filled with baby furniture, baby clothing, and toys to welcome Baby Angel. She was a surprise. In the family of God we often have the same problem. We aren't expecting God to add anyone new to our family, and we haven't prepared for them.
When God does add to our family we rejoice in the birth of a new Christian. We think "How wonderful!" And then the meeting is over and we go home, and the new "baby" Christian goes home (we assume). Sometimes, we come back the next Sunday and the new baby is there too. And sometimes the week after, and the week after. The baby grows and becomes a regular member of the family.
But what about the others, the babies we have abandoned? It's as if we told them: Welcome to the family. Dinner is served on Sunday mornings at 11:00. If you happen to soil yourself there are some clean clothes in the closet over there. Well, I've got to go now, see you on Sunday morning. Oh, and if you get lonely you can call the church and leave me a voice-mail message. We forget that babies can't feed themselves (or even eat our food), or clean themselves, and that they need a lot of love and personal, caring, attention.
Do we assume that the pastor is the person we have hired to perform all the parenting? Great! What else do we expect him to do? And what about the new baby's aunts and uncles, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, and cousins? What does God expect of each of us as members of the family? Certainly we are instructed to love one another, carry one another's burden, help those who are weak, exhort those who stray into sin.
Perhaps the next time we rejoice because someone has become a new creation we will remember. Perhaps we will learn more than just their first name. Perhaps we'll tell them that learning to live in their new world can be difficult and reassure them that we will help them. Perhaps we will even call them a couple of times during the first few days to see if there are questions or other needs we can help with. Perhaps we'll send them a note of encouragement. Perhaps we'll invite them to be a part our own daily Christian family life. Perhaps we'll invite them to dinner and Christian fellowship. Perhaps we'll invite them to join us at that Christian concert. Perhaps we will prove that God's family is a loving family which cares for one another. Perhaps...
Or maybe the baby will just die.
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