Last month, I boarded a plane to Africa–together with my wife and three kids. We did so in order to become the parents of four kids. Early in our marriage, my wife and I felt a desire to see our family grow through adoption. Circumstances being what they were, we waited several years before initiating the adoption process. Other circumstances being what they were, we waited another three years for the process to work itself out. Years of waiting, thousands of dollars, countless tears shed, and reams of paperwork filed, re-filed, notarized, authenticated, and submitted for review by multiply layers of state, national, and international bureaucratic agencies and finally we finally left to adopt our soon-to-be son.
Why would we subject ourselves, our marriage, and our family to the rigors of adoption? I was asked this question the other night by a sweet family who was curious about this adoption process. I told them that I read in Galatians 4:1-7 and Romans 8:12-17 were I discovered that, in Christ, God had adopted me. Spiritually speaking, we are born “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (Gal 4:3). But God in his mercy provided redemption for the spiritual orphan through Jesus Christ, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4, 5). Additionally, I read throughout the Old Testament where God calls his people to provide for the most vulnerable in society, specifically “the widow, the fatherless, and the sojourner” (Ex 22:22, Deut 10:18, and 30+ other places). Quite simply, I believe that when God said this, he meant it. God loves to show mercy to the needy (see Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 12).
However, this opens the door for another question–namely, “What compels us to adopt?” When I get past the sappy and saccharine sentimentality of thinking I’m rescuing some poor child from poverty and realize that, theologically speaking, I am the orphan, it compels me to love the orphan as God has loved me. It is for the simple reason that when we were orphans God showed us mercy. Think about the beauty of this doctrine. God takes an orphan and puts his name upon him, gives him access to the throne of grace with boldness, loves him as his own child, and makes him an heir of heaven. When we were the orphan, lacking in the basic relationships and necessities of life, God showed us mercy. “In [God} the orphan finds mercy” (Hos 14:3). That which was lacking and missing in your life was fulfilled and met by God in his mercy. This is where our doctrine should lead to doxology, which should–in turn–lead to action. After I explained that this is the reason for our adoption, one of the family members looked at me and said, “Wow, you get to explain the Gospel every time someone asks you about adoption, don’t you?” I replied, “That’s exactly the point.”