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How adoption demonstrates the grace of God

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November 11, 2020

John Piper famously said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Piper wasn’t deriding missions in that statement. Instead, he was acknowledging the reality that both the Great Commission and the modern missionary movement are so important because our world is filled with lostness. Across the globe there are many men and women and boys and girls of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, nationalities, and languages who have never called upon the name of the Lord because they have no access to the gospel. And that is a tragedy. Worship is the praise we render our King. And missions exists because there are still countless people who have never heard the good news about Jesus.

Adoption and brokenness

I was thinking about Piper’s words a lot this week because this month is National Adoption Month. In a way that is similar to missions, adoption exists not for its own sake but because of something else. Rather than lostness, though, adoption exists because of brokenness. And because of the brokenness wrought by sin, right now there are millions of children all around the world in need. They are in need of homes, in need of families, in need of moms and dads and brothers and sisters. Though many of them are not even old enough to realize it yet, they are in desperate need of the incredible network of lifelong love and support that comes with being a part of a family. 

Adoption is beautiful. Adoption is wonderful. Adoption is powerful. But adoption exists because of brokenness. Apart from the fallenness of this world, there would be no need for adoption. And apart from the brokenness of this world, there would be no orphans.

Adoption and the gospel

This topic should have a special resonance with Christians. We understand adoption in two different senses, and one feeds into the other. Spiritually, we understand adoption as being central to our salvation. Once, we were lost in darkness, separated from Jesus and cut off from the promises of God (Eph. 2:12). We did not belong to God’s family but were instead “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). But through Jesus, we have been rescued from darkness and redeemed from the bondage of sin. More than that, we’ve been welcomed into a new family as sons and daughters of the living God (Gal. 4:5; Eph.1:5).

We were once spiritual orphans, but we have been adopted. We have a new father, a new inheritance, and a new future. For Christians, adoption changes everything. Doing something we could never do for ourselves, God has shown incredible mercy to us by saving us from a situation defined by desperation and hopelessness. Instead of a life devoid of hope, he has given us the promise of a life filled with him. It is difficult to fathom a greater act of love. And as the apostle John tells us, that is exactly why God did it: “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).

Because we are no longer orphans, we look at adoption differently. When we look at those who are physical orphans in the world, our hearts are moved because something in us identifies with their experience. Christians care about adoption because it is much more than a metaphor; it is an act of grace that changed our lives. And when it comes to the adoption of those in need of mothers and fathers and families, we are motivated by the very same reason for which God in his mercy adopted us: love.

Adoption and grace

Love is the reason that God acted to adopt us. And love is the reason that Christians should be involved in adoption and orphan care. Adoption isn’t easy, but Christians should be motivated to this cause because of the undeserved grace we received through Jesus. And even after salvation, we are not perfect in our obedience. Like me, many of you do not struggle to identify ways that you fail to live up to God’s standards or to live a life worthy of his calling.

Yet, our brokenness did not stop God from welcoming us into his family. And the brokenness of sin should not stop us from being involved in adoption in the world. Children find themselves in need of adoption in for many different reasons, but brokenness is the common thread. In each case, somewhere along the way, the curse of sin revealed its power and a person made in the image of God was made vulnerable. And most often, multiple people in each story are suffering because of the effects of sin. This is why adoption is about grace.

When we look at those who are physical orphans in the world, our hearts are moved because something in us identifies with their experience. Christians care about adoption because it is much more than a metaphor; it is an act of grace that changed our lives.

Stepping into a story of brokenness with the commitment to provide hope and love and support is a living picture of the gospel, though doing so is painful. Adoption comes with scars. For the child, for the adoptive parents, and often for the biological parents, an adoption story is filled with hope and hurt, joy and pain, love and trauma. 

Our adoption into the family of God came at a great cost. Jesus gave his life so that you and I could be his brothers and sisters forever. Welcoming a child into your own family will also require sacrifice. There are great challenges because there is deep brokenness, but the good news is, grace covers those things. God adopted us because he loves us, and he showers us with grace, even when we fall short. We prioritize adoption because we have received God’s love and mercy. And in caring for orphans and the vulnerable, we show the world the grace God has shown to us.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester serves as the Chair of Research in Christian Ethics at the ERLC. He is also pursuing a Th.M. in Public Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Josh is married to McCaffity, and they have two children. Read More by this Author