My husband and I said “yes” a year and a half ago. We said yes to bringing a child with whom we do not share DNA into our home. We said yes to giving care, advocacy, and love to this child as if he was our own. We said yes to a path of uncertainty, but certain to be full of both highs and lows. We said yes with deep joy and tentative excitement.
We didn’t say yes because we knew the process would be easy or pain free. It hasn’t been. We didn’t say yes because we were sure the outcome would be permanent stability for this child in our family. We’re still not certain what the future holds. And we didn’t say yes because we were experiencing the empty ache of childlessness. We’d already received the gifts of three biological sons who fill our hearts and home.
We had a better reason to say yes: It was clearly God’s will for us to do so. We know this to be true, not because God revealed it to us in a vision or audibly spoke into our particular situation. We know it to be true because God made his will clear in his Word, and his Spirit impressed it upon our hearts through three primary truths.
1. Children are always a gift
Guardianship, foster care, and adoption are messy ministries. Why? Because these ministries are a necessary result of brokenness. The fact that so many biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for their children reminds us that something has gone terribly askew in our world. But children, regardless of the circumstances through and into which they are born, are gifts. Always gifts. God made this clear by allowing our first parents Adam and Eve to “bear fruit” in spite of their sinful rebellion (Gen. 3:16, 20). And he confirms that all human life is a gift by revealing his tender heart for the orphan throughout Scripture (Isa. 1:17; Psa. 82:3; Deut. 10:18; James 1:27).
We live in a culture that says the natural fruit of our sexuality is only good when it’s wanted or chosen. It’s reasoned that if children are not wanted or chosen, parents should have the freedom to kill them in the womb. This killing is a hallmark of the kingdom of darkness. Think of the mass genocides of infant children led by Pharaoh (Ex. 1:22) and Herod (Matt. 2:16), both prototypical enemies of God. In contrast, God commands his people not to sacrifice their own children as the pagan nations do (Deut. 12:31). Disdaining the gift of children is the natural overflow of humanity’s rebellious quest for autonomy from God. And it’s hellish business.
But God is in the business of graciously bringing the gift of fruit from barren places. The Bible is full of examples including Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 21:1-2), Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), Elkanah and Hannah (1 Sam. 1:19b-20), Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:7,13), and Mary (Luke 1:31,34-35). Christians know that life is always a good gift to be received from the hand of God, and we demonstrate our belief in this truth when we are ready and willing to give our joyful yes to any children God puts before us who need tender love and care.
2. We fight for life through death to self
The gift of fruitfulness is a heavy blessing. It’s heavy precisely because human life is so valuable. Receiving and stewarding the gift of a child, whether biologically one’s own or not, requires investments of time, energy, and financial resources in innumerable quantities. And if a child comes into one’s family from previously difficult circumstances, the investment may be even greater. In a very real sense, the gift of children requires parents to lay down their own lives for the life of another.
The culture of death all around us proclaims the lie that children aren’t always a gift worth the investment required to steward them, and this message rings true to fallen sensibilities. In a world that’s all about self-promotion, self-love, and self-care, self-denial sounds pretty ridiculous. But finding true life through death is the message of the cross, and it’s folly to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18).
Christians know that life is always a good gift to be received from the hand of God, and we demonstrate our belief in this truth when we are ready and willing to give our joyful yes to any children God puts before us who need tender love and care.
Jesus came to earth to conquer death through his own death, which led to resurrection glory. Through his sacrifice, he freely offers eternal life to all who trust him by faith. Then he calls those who believe to follow him in dying: “‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life finds it” (Luke 9:23-24).
The indwelling Holy Spirit enables Christians to war against the culture of death by dying to self in service to others. This means Christians can do hard things. We can be on the front lines of orphan care ministry, joyfully receiving and stewarding the gift of children (or supporting those who do), even though it costs us something. We tell the world the gospel is true when we willingly open our hands and homes to the good gift of children, even, and maybe especially, those we haven’t physically borne.
3. The gospel changes everything
My husband and I didn’t say yes to receiving a child into our home because we’re naturally noble and drawn toward service. Apart from Christ, we’re self-centered lovers of comfort and ease. No, we said yes because the gospel is true. It has changed (and is still changing) us. By grace through faith in Christ alone, we who were once orphaned by sin have been made sons and daughters of the Father. The Holy Spirit is now producing good fruit in our once spiritually barren hearts, enabling us to live for someone greater than ourselves.
The Bible teaches that one primary evidence of gospel transformation in a person’s life is care for the least of these: “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). Because we know the promises of God are all yes for us in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:19-20), the hearts of all Christians must be continually postured to offer our joyful “Yes!” to God in whatever he calls us to do.
With empty hands, we’ve received his salvation and the gift of spiritual fruit. Now, with hands and hearts full of every spiritual blessing, we’re able to pour all we have back out in service to him as we steward the gifts and callings he has given us. Unstained by the world’s way of thinking, Christains say yes with our wallets, our time, our energy, and our very lives to receive the orphans of the world because God has done so for us. And this good news changes everything.