Growing up, my family didn’t look like everyone else’s. There was no one whom I called dad. And after the age of fifteen, there was no one I called mom either.
Smack in the middle of my teenage years my understanding of family changed.
After my mom passed away, in many respects, I had a new family. My aunt and uncle soon knit us into their own family. I knew them my entire life, but now our relationship was closer than ever before. They moved from being extended family to being my family. I was adopted into their family.
And that forever changed how I understand the implications of moving from a spiritual orphan to daughter within the family of God.
Since many of us in the western Church live within a nuclear family, verses about God’s gift of adoption might not immediately resonate on a deep level. It’s hard for us to see the benefits of something we never knew we needed.
To be sons and daughters of God is about so much more than calling each other sister and brother when you forget someone’s name. It’s about our change in relationship with God and with one another. It’s fundamental to who we are in Jesus.
Here are 3 reasons why adoption is a perfect image of the gospel.
1. Adoption is about inclusion.
The New Testament speaks often about followers of Jesus having been adopted into the family of God.
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:6-7)
As an adopted child, you’re no longer and outsider looking in. You’re an insider. This is where you belong.
After my mom passed away, it took a very long time for me to no longer see myself as a square peg trying to fit in the round hole. And it wasn’t that I lacked love from my aunt and uncle. It was just hard for me to see myself as anything other than an outsider.
For a while, I saw myself as a roommate in my cousin’s room rather than seeing it as my room. No matter how much my mind told me I did not belong my aunt and uncle showed me over and over again that I did.
Followers of Jesus are children of God. This is who we are. But it’s all too easy for us to live like spiritual orphans, as if we don’t belong, because that was once our status. We tend to think it takes a certain amount of work or discipline to reach the level of father-child relationship with God.
But in this verse Paul uses the Aramaic term abba, which is a significant relational term. To know God as Father is a loving and intimate relational dynamic.
God’s relationship with his people is far less like a drill sergeant who will point out every mistake and flaw you make and more like a father who lovingly guides and cares for his children.
2. Adoption commits to a messy, ugly kind of love.
As beautiful as adoption is, it’s also filled with some really difficult moments.
My brother and sister-in-law recently adopted two little ones who were taken away from their mother. And even at a very young age, the transition was filled with many challenges. There were days of discouragement, doubt, and exhaustion.
But as a sister and aunt who isn’t entrenched in the day-to-day challenges, I could see beauty from ashes.
Those once defiant and insecure children are now with joy and love. They no longer fear abandonment or mistreatment. They have found security and trust in their mom and dad. They have found a place to belong.
Our adoption was costly. It was ugly. It required the sacrifice of God’s only son. It was the greatest display of love the world has ever seen.
And yet, we still doubt it’s real. We aren’t sure if we can trust that we’re really safe and that we belong. We go back to thinking we’re slaves rather than heirs to the Kingdom.
Our doubt and mistrust is ugly. It makes us go cling to false comfort and security. We often bounce back and forth between trust and doubt. But your Father is still there to show you, over and over again, that you are his child. You belong in his family.
Even in your greatest dysfunction, God still calls you son or daughter. Adoption is one of the most ugly and beautiful things we will ever encounter.
3. Adoption binds us together.
My brother’s family grew from a family of four to a family of six overnight. His kids no longer identify as two sets of siblings but are now all are equally brothers and sisters.
This didn’t happen overnight. But through adoption they were all bound together.
This is exactly what God intended for adoption to look like in his family. What binds all believers together is the blood of Jesus. Brothers and sisters do not simply exist within your own church or denomination.
Adoption into God’s family breaks through the barriers of location and denomination. We are bound together, which means we should love one another as family.
Just as within your nuclear family there is room for a difference of opinions, it should be the same for the Church. We should support one another and be knitted together instead of driven apart over secondary and tertiary issues.
When another church is experiencing growth, we should celebrate the growth of God’s Kingdom rather than picking apart their philosophy of preaching, outreach, and discipleship.
Even as churches we function as different parts of the whole body. One church might have stronger giftings in a different area than another church. That doesn’t make one more biblical or Christ centered than the other. It simply means they are functioning within the gifts God has given them.
We are all adopted into the family of God. This binds us together in a way the world will never understand. The shared ground of adoption should knit followers of Christ together in love and truth.
Adoption is part of our eternal story.
The blessing of adoption is central to the good news of Jesus. And this truth should impact our relationship with God and others on a daily basis.
May you come to more even more deeply the kind of love that God has shared us by calling us his sons and daughter in Jesus.