Coheirs with Christ
Throughout history, God has faithfully used Christians to play a pivotal role in orphan care. Until Christ’s return—when he brings full restoration and makes all things new—we’re called to continue this work. It’s important to clarify: the biblical mandate to care for orphans should not be considered synonymous with a call to adopt orphans. Christ, our head, has given each member of his body different work to do. But if he loves orphans and sets the solitary in a home, doesn’t it make sense that he wants us—the church—providing those homes?
We may not be able to remedy the orphan crisis, but we can take action for the accessible number of children who are legally adoptable. There are children today waiting to be placed with families, because other avenues to be reunified with biological parents or to find permanent homes have already been exhausted. I pray that someday, rather than thousands of children waiting for parents to adopt them, there would be thousands of parents waiting in line, ready to welcome such children into their families.
Russell Moore writes, “When we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.”1 A hard and holy calling, adoption paints an earthly picture of the gospel.
It’s interesting to consider the role adoption played in Jesus’s own life. Because of the miracle of the immaculate conception, Jesus wasn’t biologically connected to Joseph at all. Even so, Scripture refers to Joseph as Jesus’s father. In Matthew’s Gospel the genealogy of Jesus is linked through Joseph, even though none of Joseph’s blood ran through his veins. Joseph was our Savior’s earthly father, solely through adoption.
Not only did adoption mark the beginning of Jesus’s life, but it’s the reason he came! “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). The good news of the gospel isn’t only that we’re forgiven of our sins; it’s also that we’re adopted into God’s family. Through adoption, we become coheirs with Christ, never to be separated from the love of our Father.
A Picture of the Gospel
Just as marriage is an earthly picture of Christ’s love for the church, adoption is an earthly picture of the gospel. It’s because God so loved the world that we’ve been adopted. We were separated from the Father and utterly helpless to save ourselves. And we weren’t just orphans; we were enemies—rebels of God and lovers of sin. Still, he had compassion on us. A compassion so strong he paid the greatest price to adopt us as his children. Earthly adoption, then, is just a faint echo of the glorious adoption we receive in Christ. Adoption mirrors God’s pursuit. Just as we’re utterly reliant upon the Father’s initiative for our own adoption, orphans are reliant upon an adoptive parent. They can’t change their state as orphan on their own.
Adoption only happens because prospective parents initiate it. They decide when to adopt. They choose where to adopt from. They ensure that all the legal requirements are met. They sign mountains of paperwork and stand before judges and file immigration forms. Adoption never happens by chance—it’s consciously pursued.
Adoption also mirrors God’s sacrifice. He gave his only Son so that we could be adopted, a far greater sacrifice than we will ever make. But we make real sacrifices too. We give our finances and time and willingly embrace scary unknowns. Some of us absorb the pain of rejection and endure being the target of trauma behaviors. And since we ourselves are sinners, none of this comes easily. We still have to crucify our own flesh and confess our own failings in order to love well.
Finally, adoption mirrors the certainty of our salvation. We aren’t partly saved or partly adopted. God doesn’t allow us to enter into his family with a lingering threat to kick us out if we don’t behave. When we are his, we are his forever. In the same way, my adopted daughter is just as much my child as my biological sons. I’m just as devoted to her as I am to them. Yes, she has another story before entering our family—and we seek to honor her birth mother however we can—but we also remind her that she is completely, unconditionally, and always our daughter. She’s not almost part of the family—she is family. Her place in our family is secure.
An Everlasting Family
These rich theological truths about God’s compassion, God’s pursuit, God’s sacrifice, and the certain adoption we’ve received through Christ are the lens through which we should view adoption. But it’s important that we don’t romanticize adoption’s real-life implications. While adoption is a beautiful part of God’s plan, earthly adoption only happens because of brokenness. Poverty, neglect, abandonment, death, loss, and abuse are what make children orphans in the first place. There is tragedy involved—searing pain that only God can heal. Sometimes the “beauty” of adoption is reflecting Christ by loving a child who doesn’t reciprocate. Sometimes the “beauty” of adoption is relentlessly trying to convince a child that his or her identity as a son or a daughter is permanent as they struggle to attach because of past neglect. Sometimes the “beauty” of adoption is reflecting Christ’s forgiveness, despite being the ongoing target of a child’s rage as it erupts from her own sin nature and the unique pain of her past.
Adoption mirrors God’s pursuit.
Typically, when I consider the beauty of adoption, I think of the happier aspects—an orphan no longer being an orphan but a beloved son or a daughter, with all the rights and benefits that come with a family. But sometimes the beauty of adoption is the intense hardship, just as the beauty of the gospel is only possible because of the great suffering of our Savior. In addition to demonstrating the gospel and becoming a family to a child who needs one, adoption is a profound way to fulfill the Great Commission. We have the greatest influence for the Lord within our families. When orphans are adopted into Christian families, they are not only loved as sons and daughters but are also given the chance to hear the gospel and witness its transformative power.
Our daughter is from India, where less than 2 percent of the population is Christian, making it unlikely that she’d ever have been exposed to the gospel had she remained there. She lived in a loving—and devoutly Hindu—orphanage. But our girl loves Jesus! We’ve had the joy of watching her repent of her sins and trust in Christ for her salvation. We’ve gotten to witness her childlike faith as she brings her heavy burdens to the Lord in prayer and seeks him for refuge. When I see her heart for God, I’m continually struck by the lengths he went to rescue her. He orchestrated a million details so that she’d be adopted into a family where she could hear about him, and ultimately be adopted into his family. And because God’s heart is for every nation, tribe, and tongue, he leads adoptive families differently. He moves some of us to adopt domestically and others to adopt internationally. He leads some families to adopt children with special needs, some to adopt babies, and others to adopt teens. Every adoption should be celebrated, because every child has eternal value. Adoption isn’t just about building an earthly family—it’s about introducing our children to the Father, who will never leave or forsake them, so that they can be a part of his everlasting family.
- Russell D. Moore, Adopted for Life:The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 73.
This article is adapted from Go and Do Likewise: A Call to Follow Jesus in a Life of Mercy and Mission.
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