That wasn’t what I expected to hear from Christian friends when we announced we were pursuing adoption. However, it’s not an uncommon response. In fact, before I began looking at what the Scriptures taught, I was indifferent towards adoption.
This month we will celebrate Father’s Day. For many children in America, this day is not a day to celebrate. For those who are in the Foster Care System, this day only highlights their unmet longing for a father. How does the gospel equip us to love children who are not our own?
Some years ago, I took a class on Christian ethics. We were required to write a paper on a current ethical topic facing Christians. I choose to answer the question, “How far should a Christian couple go to conceive a child with the help of modern medicine?” Though I was interested in the ethical question, I was unprepared for where the Lord was going to take me during my research.
Before jumping into the medical ethics issues, I decided to review what the Bible teaches about children in general. I had not anticipated what I found. I was struck at how often God’s love and care for children is communicated as an exhortation for His people to care for orphans. I was confronted with passages like:
“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 NIV
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6a NIV
Such verses began to gnaw at my soul because I had never thought about adoption as an application of the Gospel in my life. I had grown up in a Christian home, had Christian friends and yet, I didn’t know anyone who was adopted.
Over the course of the next several years, the Lord placed a number of people in our lives who were adopted. The families we met were remarkable. In the trans-racial adoptive homes, families that adopted children of a different ethnicity than the parents, these families were a melting pot of cultures. There was no clash of cultures, but rather, all of these family members, including the adopted members, had a clear sense that their primary identity was in Christ, not their race or ethnicity.
I began to realize that I had been thinking about adoption from the wrong point of view prior to writing that paper. Before adopting, I thought of adoption as something a Christian couple could do if they wanted to. I assumed the “Christian” question was, “Do we want to adopt?”
However, through this process, I realized that God has a bigger, bolder, and more glorious view of orphans. God intends for His people to conform to His image and His heart. The question wasn’t “Do we want to adopt?” but rather, “What would prevent us from adopting?” or “What role does God call us to play in the care of orphans?”
There certainly are sound reasons for a couple not to adopt: familial, financial, etc. However, every follower of Jesus is called to care for orphans. The question is: “How?”
This only makes sense when we begin to understand the deep reality that “God sent his Son…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5) Apart from Christ, we have no family, we have no home. But in Christ, our elder brother, we receive all the benefits and blessings of being heirs.
Do you know the adopting love of God? If you are no longer a slave, but a son of God, how is God calling you to care for the orphans? And if you are a son, then may we emulate the Father by welcoming the orphans, literal and spiritual, that they might find a home and meet, The Father.
Ed Dunnington is the Senior Pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian in Roanoke. Visit them on the web at ctkroanoke.org