1. Adoption is Not Plan B.
It is pretty common for people to assume that most adoptions happen because a couple cannot get pregnant on their own. And to be fair, this is often the case. However, the unfortunate byproduct of this assumption is that adoption is often viewed as a plan B or a substitute for the “real thing.”
It may surprise you how many people make comments (to my husband and me as well as our many adoptive parent friends) that expose a mentality that the children of adoption are viewed as second-rate or having a lesser status. Think of how often siblings have tried to goad each other with the taunt “Oh yeah? Well, you’re adopted!” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard someone carelessly say, “It’s too bad you couldn’t have one of your own.”
I can kind of understand this outlook from people who are unbelievers, but this type of thinking has no place in the mind of a follower of Christ. If we really believe God is sovereign in all things, then each child whether naturally born into a family or placed there by adoption is living out God’s perfect and sovereign plan for his or her life. There are no mistakes with God. There is no plan B. There is only His perfect wisdom and sovereignty ordering all things as He planned from the dawn of time.
Our daughter was always meant for our family. Just because she didn’t grow in my belly doesn’t mean that there was a mistake that God had to fix. Adoption was always His perfect plan. Therefore, we don’t love her “as if she were our own.” She IS our own.
So it is with us and our relationship to God. As believers and especially Gentile ones, we have been sovereignly loved and pursued by our Creator — not only for salvation but for the familial love and inheritance He gives us through Christ. He chose us and made us His children. This has always been God’s plan from the very beginning.
“In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11-12
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5
I love how JI Packer elaborates on the doctrine of adoption in his book Knowing God:
“Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers…In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection, and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is far greater.” —JI Packer
As a believer, you have been sovereignly chosen by God to receive His mercy and grace. You are not a Plan B. He set His love on you from the very beginning!
“[God] chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6
2. Biology isn’t Superior. Love is.
When our daughter was just a couple of years old, friends of ours approached us with questions regarding adoption. They already had biological children, but felt the Lord was prompting them to pursue adoption, too. As we worked through their questions, the husband finally admitted that he was struggling with the fear that perhaps he might not love an adopted child in the same way he did his biological ones. Regardless of how we only experientially know one side of that comparison, my husband and I both feel strongly that love has nothing to do with biology. Biology makes you related. Love is what makes you a family.
Scientific research has been done to compare the bonding hormones that are released in the body when parents give birth to a baby versus the hormones that adoptive parents experience. These scientists studied the amygdala, the part of the brain that tells us we are responsible for a new life and makes us vigilant to care, provide, and nurture a child. Researchers found that the amygdala of biological parents, especially the mothers, experiences the effects of these bonding hormones during pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing. However, the scientists were stunned to discover that the same part of the brain in parents who adopt opened and responded to the exact same level as biological mothers. In both cases the bonding hormones were identical!
These scientists concluded that the love a parent has for a child has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with choice. Love is a choice. My husband and I experienced this firsthand. The love we have for our daughter has no connection to blood or DNA but it still came to us instantly and filled our hearts to overflowing. We look at her and we only see the daughter God gave us.
So what does this mean for us as believers, specifically Gentile ones? First, we must remember that God’s chosen people is Israel. He made a special covenant with them (Genesis 19; Exodus 19-34). In a figurative sense, you could say that Israel is God’s "biological family.” In Exodus 4:22, God refers to Israel as His “first-born son.” It is important to understand that while Israel has a unique relationship with God, this distinction has never guaranteed them salvation. Like us, all Jews are born as sinners in need of redemption. In His earthly ministry, Jesus confronted the religious Jews’s assumption that because they were offspring of Abraham they had no need of the forgiveness Christ offered (John 8:31-47). Nevertheless, God has chosen Israel as His special people and given them specific promises.
Additionally, God has extended His mercy and grace to those outside His chosen people. Even in the Old Testament, we see examples of Gentiles who came to faith in God, such as Rahab, Jael, Ruth, Naaman, and even the people of Nineveh after Jonah preached to them.
Likewise, in the New Testament and especially into the days of the early church we see how God begins to draw men and women to Himself from all tribes and tongues. As Paul vividly describes, God has grafted us into His family (Romans 11).
Furthermore, it is very telling that Paul also uses the terminology of adoption to teach us of our standing with God as Gentile believers. In ancient times, there really was no need for such a thing as adoption in Jewish culture. If a man died with no heir, his brother or the next closest male kin would take his place as head of the family. However, in Roman culture adoption was practiced and carried great weight and significance. Biological children could be legally disowned. Being a blood heir counted for very little for the Romans. However, to be adopted in Roman culture meant that you were especially desired and chosen and that you could never be disowned!
For Paul to describe us as adopted sons and daughters conveys a powerful meaning. We have been sought out by God. Through Jesus, we have a new identity. We are a permanent part of God’s family and can never lose our standing or our inheritance (Romans 8:17).
God chose to place His love on us. We had no familial connection to Him. We were a creation at odds with its Creator, hating Him and loving our sins. And yet, He loved us and pursued us. And because of Christ, both Jew and Gentile are part of God’s family, equal recipients in the love of God and an eternal inheritance!
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross.” Ephesians 2:12-16
We’ve all heard the old English proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” Unfortunately, the true meaning of that statement has been misunderstood to say that biological bonds are stronger and of greater value than any other. However, the full expression is actually, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” What this maxim seeks to convey is that there is a special kind of love and devotion that surpasses biology. Marriage is a perfect example of this, and so is adoption. This is why Scripture calls us the bride of Christ and adopted sons and daughters of God. When we were far off, God’s sovereign love reached out and drew us close. We’ve been bought by Christ’s blood and transformed into children of God. He has made us His own.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1
This November, I challenge you not only to consider the beauty of adoption and how you can help adopting families but to also remember and thank God for your status as an adopted son or daughter in God’s family. There is nothing more beautiful than that!
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