Adoption as Theology

I was recently asked to provide the Christian response for an interfaith Q&A. I wanted to share it here, because it was fun to write and really gets to the heart of what drives adoption for us. 
The question posed was “does your religion have any teaching on orphans or adoption?” It will be answered by leaders of several faiths, including Islam, Jusaism, and Hinduism.  Here is the Christian response that I provided:


To get a full picture of the Christian teaching on orphans and adoption, we have to back up and first address the topic of salvation. The Bible teaches us that Jesus’ blood pays for our sins, and faith in him grants us the status of “God’s children” (1 John 3:2). In another passage of scripture (Galatians 4:4-7), we are told that believers have received adoption as sons. Scripture tells us that God is the “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). In another part of scripture, John 14:18, Jesus says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (All emphasis is mine.)


Think about earthly adoption: does a child do anything to earn his new family? Does he choose his new parents, or make it possible for them to find him? Does an orphan pursue his father?


No, adoption is the most beautiful reality of the gospel: God, our Father, pursued us when we were lost in sin, alone in our trespasses, rebellious, helpless, and unwanted. It was He who initiated the adoption, gave faith for us to believe, and gave us a new name: child of God. As the prophet Ezekiel states, about Israel’s state (before the coming of Jesus): “No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you [cared for or protected them] out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day you were born.” The verses that follow show God saving the abandoned baby (Israel). He speaks life into the orphan baby, covers her, adorns her with jewels, feeds her the finest grains and honey, and cares for her as a Father.


When the gospel of Jesus came to humankind, it was expected that it came just for God’s chosen people: the Jews. But God, in his infinite generosity and kindness, extended the mercy and grace of the gospel beyond His chosen people, and offered salvation to the Gentiles, too (people who were not Jews, and therefore not part of God’s chosen people). In reality, though, both Jews and Gentiles were adopted – plucked from sin and rebellion and saved from the devastating effects of their sin.


And with our spiritual adoption, as with adoption we see here on earth, we receive a new name, a new identity: we become more and more like our Father every day of our faith. We are transformed from an orphan creature into a new creation, one that reflects God’s image, bearing His likeness through love, compassion, sacrifice, and courage.


As children of God, we are called to bring His truth and blessing to others, to care for those in this world who need it, just like He did for us. This is both an action of imitating our father, as well as a joyful result of our changed identity. We know adoption is important to God, because He did that for us. We were once spiritual orphans and He rescued us. Now we are His children, and we lose more and more of our “orphanness” each day and gain more and more of our “Christlikeness” each day. John 5:19 says it well: “…for whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”


This transformation takes many forms, but one of them is certainly the call to care for widows and orphans – the most helpless among us. Deuteronomy 10:18 says of God: “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” As Christians, we are often the means by which God executes justice, by calling His people to care for the fatherless.


We find a plea in the Psalms that we, as believers, necessarily agree with: “Give justice to the weak and fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3). James, the brother of Jesus, wrote the following: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) Christians are also told in Matthew 25:31-46, that the genuineness of our faith can be judged by our care for “the least of these.” This care for the least is not the basis of our salvation, but rather proof of it.


It is clear that, if Christians are to live a life of genuine faith, submitting our lives to the authority of scripture, we joyfully take up the call to care for orphans. For some, this means adopting a child into their family; for others, they may financially support a family who is adopting; for another, they may help and support orphan care through international sponsorship, foster care, or offering help to others who are serving orphans. As believers of the gospel, it is our privilege and joy to care for orphans among us, and our holy scriptures confirm this calling.

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