How adoption demonstrates the grace of God

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 is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24