Foster care is not only a Christian value, it is a Christian responsibility. In the bible, when the disciples debated about who amongst them was greatest, Jesus’ basically told them to be great they must embrace a child. In Mark 9:35-37, Jesus said:

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

From Moses to Jesus, God uses foster children for the benefit of humanity. And while there are at least 45 direct biblical references to mercy or justice for the orphaned and fatherless, there are many more indirect references that send a clear message: the church must answer God’s call and accept the responsibility of foster care.

In this context, it’s even more tragic that America now has 428,000 foster children in its system annually. The responsibility for these children has fallen to the government. Yet the government, which was created to ensure that no one prevents these children from having “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” can do little to actually ensure these children are free, let alone happy. That responsibility is left to the rest of us and the church should be well equipped to lead the charge.

Almost all churches have foster families or foster children within the congregation, whose stories can be used to inspire other members to answer the call. Churches have space where they can provide needed training for those who wish to volunteer or become foster families. Churches have members who seek to serve others and who can become experts and serve as trainers, facilitators, liaisons and mentors.

Many churches have access to political and community leaders and can influence policy and other important decisions related to foster care. Churches have compassion and motivation to create networks and support families who are taking up this critical mission. Most of all, churches have a moral obligation to act, and not be observers, to rectify the cruel and unusual punishment that has befallen nearly a half million American children annually.

James 1:27 reminds us that, “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.”

So even when society is polluted and worldly systems are inadequate, Christians are compelled to keep themselves from these distractions and do the right thing. We are called to act, to look after the least of us. And when we follow God’s calling, he provides us with the means to achieve the desired outcome. We have no excuses.

According to Barna Group research, 75 percent of American adults identify as Christian. There are some 320,000 Christian churches in America. If each of these churches agreed to take care of only two foster children annually, there would be no need for government intervention. Can you imagine?

“The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people’s children” as Marian Wright Eldeman once said.

It’s time to answer the call.

DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens and the founder and CEO of Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc.