WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--Until perhaps recently, most believers, in my experience, have only considered adoption and orphan care in a couple circumstances. One, they were praying for the Smiths because "they can't have children and are thinking about adopting." Or, two, they were taking up an offering to help the state or local children's home.
Of course, these are good things to do. We should pray for those who are struggling to have children and are considering adoption. And, we should help those who are providing homes to the fatherless. But if that's all orphan care is to us, then we have missed so much. We need an elevated concept of adoption. We need God's perspective on adoption. We need to meditate on the Gospel more deeply.
I turned into an adoption advocate, an adoptive dad, and eventually a writer on the subject not because of infertility but because of theology.
Believers understand that God is Father. But what kind of father is He? He is an adoptive Father! Do you realize that there are no natural-born children in the family of God? None of us were born Christians. If you are a believer, it is because God has adopted you into the family. That's it. All races brought together by God's adoption of spiritual orphans.
Paul expounds on the Gospel of God's adopting grace to the Ephesians, Galatians, and Romans. He shows us that God the Father administered our adoption, God the Son accomplished our adoption through His redeeming work on the Cross, and God the Spirit applied our adoption, giving us a new nature, a new position, and the indwelling presence of God that enables us to cry "Abba, Father." (See Galatians 4:6-7.)
Adoption was never plan B for God. It wasn't an alternative solution. It was plan A. Before the universe existed, God had planned on adopting us into His family through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). God did not adopt us because of our attractive merits, but because of His amazing mercy.
Paul tells us to "be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Ephesians 5:1). His undeserved mercy on us compels us to reflect His adoptive love to a world in need. God's love is active. Christian love is not based on the idea of just loving people the way we want to be loved. It's more. It's loving people the way God has loved us. He acted. He pursued. He showered grace on the undeserving. This is a Gospel-centered perspective on adoption and orphan care.
Obviously, not everyone is called to adopt, but every believer is called to act. That means not merely feeling sorry for orphans. Sentimentalism is no substitute for action. In addition to adoption, other ways we can be actively involved include hosting orphans for a summer, financially supporting adoptive parents, fostering children in our community, and discipling local boys and girls from functionally fatherless families.
When my wife Kimberly and I were in Ukraine adopting four children we were interviewed by a local newspaper. The reporter asked me (through an interpreter), "Why are you adopting all of these kids? No one in our country adopts four kids at one time." I said, "The short answer is ... Jesus." It's really that simple.
Sure, exposure to my sister's adopted children stirred my affections for adoption. And sure, my awareness to the state of the fatherless worldwide bothered me greatly. But when I began to see how often God talks about the fatherless in general, and how the Gospel is reflected in adoption in particular, then my mindset changed.
So, I laugh, but I also grieve, when people say to a family, "Why are you adopting? You already have natural-born children. You can have your own kids." They've missed it. They don't see that adoption isn't about infertility; it's about responding to God's grace properly: first with gratitude toward Him, and then with active love toward others. How is He calling you to love the orphan today?
Tony Merida is associate pastor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and the co-author of "Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care." He formerly was pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss.
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