Let me begin with two simple but biblical truths that I want to tie together in a moment.
First, Jesus has a heart for the orphan. You might more generally express this as a heart for the down and out and rejects of proper society, but specifically you see orphans and widows mentioned in the Scripture as those that God is serious about allying with, advocating for, and acting on behalf of. There are serious warnings about messing with them. And God proved He was serious by judging nations that did.
Consider briefly that we are spiritually adopted into God's family. Outsiders who are now insiders because of His legal work (at the cross, where He dealt with the sin that separated us) that revealed His relational heart (that we would be brought into His family and He would be our Father).
I know Jesus loves everyone. But there appears to be a special place in His heart for little defenseless ones. The Advocate speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I simply note that it appears to be a unique focus of His affection.
Second, the Spirit of Jesus lives in the heart of every true believer, in every follower of Christ. This is not generically true of humanity, but a special expression of the relationship between Christ and His followers, between God the Father and His children. This is part of what unites believers, that we are under the influence and sway of the same person, the Holy Spirit.
And now to tie them together.
One of the things we were blown away with was the number of people who followed Maggie's story. We quite literally heard from people all over the place. Friends from days gone by. High School acquaintances that followed us on Facebook. People we hadn't talked to in years - sometimes people we haven't talked to ever! They were all so very touched by what Maggie was going through and how she was doing. Emails poured in. Cards showed up in our mailbox from churches that prayed for her. Multiple churches had prayer times for us during their services. And on and on.
I think those two truths I mentioned earlier explain why.
I know we are loved. And there are certainly people who wouldn't claim to be followers of Christ who were genuinely touched by the story or had a unique relationship with one of us. My wife is reasonably well known in the adoption community. I pastor a church. In that sense we're mildly public figures. Mildly. But that doesn't explain the widespread grip of the Minion's saga on hearts in places we had never heard of and in people we still don't personally know.
But for those in whom the Spirit of Jesus dwells, the Spirit that the Bible calls the Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8.15), I think there's a unique and spiritual component to the connection. The logic goes like this:
Jesus loves orphans in a unique way, ANDAnd I think that's what we saw in these months that unfolded. People who loved Jesus did tie themselves to Maggie's story uniquely, passionately, and generously. There was some sort of Holy Spirit prompt in them that made their hearts either break or leap, but either way their hearts inclined toward a little girl from outside of Xi'an.
The Spirit of Jesus is in His followers, THEREFORE
The followers of Jesus will love orphans too, assuming they're given the exposure and chance to do so
It was more than a fascination with her story. It was more than a simple (though biblical) response to someone in crisis. People prayed. They gave. They stuck with us. They cried. A few slogged through it all like it was their own kiddo. Their hearts beat in rhythm with the Father's.
All of it came from a heart level. Something doesn't reach that level without Spirit empowerment. But that heart-level connection is exactly what He brought.
And here's the confession part: I can be too busy doing "ministry" that I can't slow down enough for my life to connect with things happening around me on a heart-level. A few less noises in my life and waking up a little earlier helps fight that off, but it's still a challenge.
I know it's probably just me, but just in case you know someone else who might struggle like I do: take the challenge to live at a pace where your heart can beat in sync with God's. It will most certainly result in good to you and others.