Understanding How Adoption Runs Through the Veins of the Gospel
Scripture is breathed by God and serves as our primary means of identification in understanding the world. Without having Jesus physically present today, we have scripture to guide us. The Bible is inspired, which means “God-breathed” and written by God’s leading on specific human authors. There is no accident in the hundreds of references to God as a Father, His commandments to feed the orphans, nor in His use of adoptees to accomplish His will. Approaching the Bible and letting it speak for itself with the sole meaning of what the text was meant to declare is crucial. The church must rally behind the words Jesus spoke and take them to heart, reforming the desolation we see at hand.
When God Hardwired Adoption Into His Design, It Was For a Purpose.
There is arguably no greater modern-day image of the Christian walk than adoption. We have many references to being called to sonship. Although the Bible doesn’t chronicle apostilles and home study dates, it does guide believers through the adoption logic and process, offering hope. Adoption is God’s demonstration of redemption in each of our lives and he calls the church to it time and time again. So really, what does the Bible say about adoption?
“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon [Peter], son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” John 21:17 ESV.
When Jesus spoke over Peter, it was a clear declaration of his purpose. If you loved Jesus, then you went and fed his children. Orphans are sheep, foster children are sheep, people are sheep. Children need guidance, and Jesus loved those children. They were messy and climbed into his lap, and he loved them anyway. Jesus is full of justice and correction, and he is these things because he is full of mercy. He guides us toward what is best for us. So what does the Bible say about adoption? That it is good. It is holistic and it will guide us toward the image of Christ (which is the entire mission of the gospel). The example he sets must shape our worldview.
A worldview dictates your perception and interpretation of outside stimuli and inner balance, and it is primarily composed of answers to these three questions. The first, how did we get here and what is our purpose? Second: what went wrong? Lastly, what part does redemption play in this story? Addressing the first part, we were created and designed. The second point, sin entered the world and caused division amongst families, hurt, addiction, and so much more. Adoption plays a major part in the third: ransom and redemption.
From early Old Testament passages, God promises the lineage of Christ to show His sovereignty. He will be born through the lineage of David and the tribe of Judah. But this is not the lineage of Mary, Jesus’ biological mother. No. This was the lineage of Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father. How seriously does God take adoption? Seriously enough that he qualified Joseph as his own son’s father. We clearly see stepparent adoption written into the Bible. Whether you are an adoptive or birth parent, considering placement for your child, or an adoptee yourself, take peace in this understanding: adoption runs deep through the veins of the gospel.
In Exodus 2, Moses was born into abject poverty and what seemed like certain death. His mother set him in a basket, down a river and hoped it would be more merciful than the fate he faced if left with her. Now, he was adopted by royalty and made into a prince. Esteemed and wholly loved. Yet even Moses, prince and prophet, had an identity crisis about his conflicting cultures. His birthright entitled him to slavery and a life of nothingness, but God used his new home and position to change the Hebrew way of life. He ran, angry at God. And yet, God purposed that adoption to lead his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt. Thus, foreshadowing the way believers are adopted into the family of Christ and liberated from bondage to sin and corruption. We see domestic, transracial adoption in Moses’ story.
Esther was a queen, who was adopted and raised as a daughter by Mordecai, her cousin. According to Esther 2:7, her parents had died and he stepped up. Before marrying into royalty by Mordecai’s doing, she lived among the Jews, who were hated and treated poorly within their community. Becoming queen gave her an opportunity to speak, and God deemed her worthy, despite all the circumstances she came from. Because of their close relationship, Mordecai continually persuades Esther to plead the case of their people. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
Adoption gave the people a chance and a queen like none other. Her courage, beauty, humility, and self-sacrificial respect for human life won her favor in the eyes of her husband, the King.
Ergo, the Bible dictates that adoption is a powerful agent for the will of God. It also says that each believer is adopted as a child of God. We are messy, angry, and broken beings. Anyone who has ever been around children can attest to this being a perfect parallel to toddlers. Yet, we are loved and met with an invitation to join the transformational step: becoming God’s child. Sounds a lot like the adoption process. The invitation for a home and love is extended and it changes your life.
God, love and compassion incarnate, calls out the desire to parent within us. He placed empathy and souls in us for a purpose. Compassion means meeting people in their brokenness. “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.. Go, to the homes of the broken. Meet your foster child in their mess, your adopted child in their needs.
All throughout the Bible, adoption shows testament to God’s grace. In fact, the Christian walk is very clearly compared to two practices we still have today: marriage and adoption. God is a father, and we are referenced in Ephesians 2:3-5 as formerly being children of wrath, children of the world, and now becoming children of light through the grace of God.
To even partially comprehend how God takes the incredibly complex beings he’s created and addresses them with simple compassion, we must understand the character of God. He is gracious, he is kind, he is just, and he is merciful. We must also understand the character of the world.
So we understand God is good. But we’re afraid to dip our hands into suffering, because what good can come of that? You, your child, or future child may have suffered at the hands of the world and you may feel that God is distant or cruel. I was ripped away from my home at age 16 because a man decided it was his prerogative to endanger my life. Afterward, my sunny south-Florida home no longer represented security, it merely served to remind me of how distant God felt. Another time, a 5-year-old foster child came into our care for two nights, and during this time we gave her a bath. Cigarette burns, up and down her spine, brought me to tears after tucking her into bed that evening. God felt cruel.
But the Bible says God is merciful. Abounding in kindness and great love. That he binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted and restores their soul. God did not cause the evil that occurred to that baby girl, you, or me. But he does redeem it. God did not cause the evil that plagues this world, creating broken homes, drug addiction, heartache, and death. But he designed adoption, which brings joy. God is good.
We must operate with the assumption that God is good, even when our circumstances are not. Even when your son is questioning his origins, even when he is grappling with why the parents who were supposed to love him fell short. Even when, as a birth mother, you struggle with doubt or shame, when it feels like that child should be here. Hopeful parents as you wonder why a placement fell through. God is still good. Humans are disappointing beings, and when I begin to see life through the lens of my disappointment, it cripples my viewpoint.
A simple reminder: God does not condemn the orphan. It is not a lack of faith, a lack of heart. Jesus suffered. We may have become apathetic to the gospel and moved away from the call of God to take up the plight for the orphan. When we grasp adoption, we grasp Christianity. It is an act of worship. Messy, authentic, rejecting the lie of a “prosperity gospel.” Orphans are not abandoned, crushed, or left by God.
This is not a judgment for your potentially weary heart, this is an invitation to come as you are to the table. Whether it’s as a parent with more than enough, starting the journey to become an adoptive parent, or whether it’s as a hopeful adoptee, pleading for a family. There is room for you here in this family. You want to know what the Bible says about adoption?
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us [b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known [c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV
Verse three speaks as to who created adoption and the actual verdict: it is created by and deemed good by the Creator. Verses four and five include the words, “adoption” and “love.” We are adopted into a family, with brothers and sisters, by a loving Father. What better declaration of the Biblical perspective on adoption, than it being used by God himself? Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father but adopted him as his own. Raising another man’s son was a radical and confusing concept. Esther was raised by a man who called her his own child when she was orphaned. Moses, Ruth, Mephibosheth. The Bible is adorned with stories about adoption to demonstrate the Christian walk, redemption, and God’s purpose for his children: care for those who are afflicted. When we grasp adoption, we grasp Christianity. There are no natural-born children in the kingdom of heaven, and we are called to be imitators of the gospel. I cannot think of a more clear invitation in the adoption community.
“Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.”
Katala Peterson is pursuing a career as a psychologist and has a passion for family of all kinds. She comes from a large adoptive family and has years of foster care experience. In her spare time, Katala enjoys hiking with her dog and experimenting with new recipes.