Spiritual Lessons of Adoption Print

adopt1AThirteen months ago, when my wife and I felt called to pursue an international adoption, we expected it to be a rollercoaster filled with paperwork, travel, stress, and excitement. Little did we realize just how much God would use this process to help us understand the gospel in a new way. Indeed, I’ve come to see adoption as simply the best analogy for our redemption in Jesus Christ—the picture of the gospel par excellence. Yet, many Christians have not yet come to appreciate that the story of salvation is a story of adoption, as Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-6: "God sent forth his Son..to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption." In other words, redemption is not the end of the story; God redeems us so that he might adopt us as his very own.

Understood through the lens of adoption, Christian theology takes on a new, lively, and relational reality. Predestination, far from a cold decree, is God’s setting his heart and commitment upon us when we were far from him and did not know him, determining to do what it takes to bring us home (Eph 1:5). Justification is not only the process by which the guilty are acquitted, but the court in which the orphan becomes a son or daughter—"legal" members of God’s family—through adoption. The process of sanctification is the long and difficult process of an adopted child coming to trust her adoptive father and bear family resemblance. The adopted Church, then, has new reason to call each other "brother" and "sister" for that is truly what we are: family members, not by birth, but by our adoption by the same Father. And eternal life? Indeed, an adopted child has the same access to the inheritance as the natural children; likewise we adopted sons and daughters are co-heirs with Christ.

The overwhelming and stressful adoption process (still ongoing as of this writing) has also taught us what it means to walk by faith. It has made us aware of our need and dependence, stretched us to trust in God’s sovereignty and pray like never before. What a gift it has been to experience in some small way—and begin to trust in new way—the cosmic, redemptive, adoptive love of God the Father.

As November is "Adoption Awareness Month," may we be more aware of the practical needs of orphans around us and around the world. May we become more aware of how we as a church can reach out in practical ways to care for orphans and adoptive families. May some of us consider or begin walking the path of adoption ourselves. But may we also become aware of the fact that adoption matters for all of us—that all Christians are themselves adopted—for we have been welcomed as God’s own children. There is something we can all do for adoption, for in adoption God has done something for all of us.

Andrew Nagel is the Associate Pastor at Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, MD and a member of the PPL Board of Directors.