Warning and Welcome PDF Print E-mail

by Andy NagelClark_Adopt3
Words of warning:

    "Some parents may choose to terminate the pregnancy."

This was the response to the naivete my wife and I unwittingly revealed in the examination room as our midwife offered us the option of genetic screening. This being our first pregnancy, and having been told that everything looked fine, we didn't understand what benefit this procedure offered us. We were quite surprised to hear something that we have since come to know with sadness: that somewhere between 80 -90% of unborn children who are diagnosed with the genetic abnormality of Down's Syndrome are 'terminated' before they are born.

Words of warning:

    "You just never know who you might end up with."

This was the response of a friend when I mentioned that my wife and I were open to adopting a child someday. Many a person considering adoption has heard these words. The assumption that adopted children are somehow suspect is engrained deep within many people, even among many pro-life Christians. The notion that adoption is for people who can't have "real" children, or that to adopt is to somehow "cheat" biological children, is both widespread and pernicious.

A different message

Thankfully, there are many thoughtful voices that offer a different message of the value of children (whatever their genetic code presumes to say about their past or future), and the immense theological and spiritual significance of adoption. Duke Divinity School ethicist Amy Laura Hall reminds us that Christians know two very important things about all children—be they biological or adopted—that God has created them in his image, and that Christ died for them on his cross. Indeed, Hall points out that,

    "Christians are saved inasmuch as we are indeed ourselves adopted. Adoption is the form of salvation." *1

In a world that so often offers words of warning, the Gospel speaks a word of welcome.

An act of welcome

By God's grace, there are times when we don't so much hear or read this message of welcome as we do see it embodied before us. For me, one of these moments was at Abby Clark's baptism. I had received a letter from Jon and Nina some months before, that their family was growing as they were welcoming a Chinese toddler into their family, a toddler who had Down's Syndrome. Given the fact that their 7 year old daughter, also with Down's, had health issues that were challenging, I found this act of hospitality to be profoundly compassionate, courageous, and Christ-like.

It was a privilege to stand before the congregation with the Clark family on the day of Abby's baptism, a witness to a miracle wrought by God's grace and the embodiment of the gospel in real life. Watching the three older brothers doting over their younger sisters, thinking of Abby's journey from Yueyang City, China to Germantown Maryland, I reflected on how her story of adoption is, in a deep sense, my story also, since in God's generous love, I too was chosen and adopted as a son through Jesus Christ (Eph, 1:4-5). I thought of the glorious promise of the gospel, which, as Russell Moore writes, is not just "a suspension of doom."

    "It's not simply that those who trust in Christ have found a refuge, a safe place, or a foster home. All those in Christ, Paul argues, have received sonship. We are now 'Abraham's offspring' (Gal. 3:29). Within this household—the tribal family of Abraham—all those who are in Christ have found a home through the adopting power of God." *2

What a gift it was to remember and recall our own adoption as sons and daughters into the family of God. What a deep honor it was to be a part of that moment in which God's people proclaimed a different message from the world around us. What a privilege it was to look at Abby and speak words not of warning, but of welcome: "Abby Clark, child of the covenant, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," and to face the church and say with all the assurance of God's promise:

    "Friends, Abby is a new daughter, a new sister, a new partner in ministry."

Thanks be to God!

Andy Nagel serves as the Associate Pastor of Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Maryland. He also serves on the board of Presbyterians Pro-Life.

1Amy Laura Hall, Conceiving Parenthoood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Press, 2008) 394.

2Russell Moore, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009) 30.



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