Theology of Adoption
Originally published in March 2014
I have a confession to make. I haven’t told many people… but I am adopted. I didn’t find out until I was 15 years old. It had been kept a secret from me. I had been going to church since I was seven years old but I found out that I had been adopted into God’s family thanks to a friend at school. It was through his personal witness to me that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. My church had never mentioned to me that becoming a Christian meant that you were adopted into God’s family. Surely faithfulness to scripture would mean that we should talk about this vital facet of our Christian experience yet there is a deafening silence when it comes to talking about adoption.
It’s hard to think of a more incredible privilege than realising that the God who created the universe, the constellations, Italian coastlines and if it exists, the Higgs Boson particle, wants to include us into His family. Despite how we betrayed Him, ignored Him, and messed up not just our lives but His world, God has made it clear that He wants to permanently include us into His family, give us royal status, a name, an inheritance seat at His table, and a room in the family home. When you think about it, the doctrine of adoption is startlingly powerful. We are adopted as His children; we don’t have to earn His favour. His favour has been gifted to us. We are legally adopted by a God who will never break His word. This is such a sparkling doctrine yet it is virtually ignored in our sung worship, in our liturgy and in our preaching. Dr. Timothy Trumper puts it well:
If you look more broadly, however, you’ll find that adoption is conspicuous by either its absence from or its scant attention in the theological texts, the creeds and the confessions of the church. Contrast its treatment with that of its neighboring doctrines. How seismic and mature have been the treatments of justification and sanctification by comparison!
I have been wracking my brain trying to think about why this is. Here are my three hunches. I’d love to know which of these answers is the most persuasive:
1. It is too passive. This is my sociological and theological perspective. Rather than “making a decision for Christ” which puts our abilities centre stage, adoption is all about what God has done for us. When we say that “we chose” or “decided” to become a Christian in our testimonies it highlights our wisdom, good sense, good taste – a bit like an Apple computer purchaser can feel satisfied that they made a good decision in buying a superior product. Is the language of attributing our conversion story to our ability another means of self flattery? Recovering adoption as part of our language would not only be more faithful to scripture but also continue to draw attention to God’s grace and mercy rather than our abilities.
2. It doesn’t rhyme with many other words. Our worship leaders have a huge influence on the theology, mood, ethos and language of our churches. I know many worship leaders take this responsibility very seriously and submit their songs to rigorous theological evaluation. But do we not talk about adoption because we don’t sing about adoption? Does it just come down to a difficulty in finding something to rhyme with “adopted”?
3. It might make me think about adopting someone. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, there are more than 30, 000 children waiting for adoption in Canada alone. It’s a number so daunting that most of us can’t bear to think about it. It’s a whole stadium full of children. Reflect on it the next time you pick your children up from school. Pause for thought the next time you see your grandchildren or nephews and nieces at a school production or school sports day. Imagine if every one of those children in front of you had no permanent place to call home and no parents there to cheer them on. 30,000 children are ready and waiting for adoption. They wait in the hope that someone will want them. They hope that someone will be there with them through thick and thin, will love them, will take them on picnics, trip to the seaside, and will tuck them in at night and kiss them goodnight. If we thought about our adoption into God’s family it would change the way we felt about these waiting children. God didn’t make excuses why He couldn’t adopt us. God didn’t come looking for perfect children that would complete His family. God didn’t refuse to take us on because we were messed up and broken. God saw us in our need and reached out to us. By His grace and through His mercy God offered us a forever home with Him. He made us His sons and daughters and gave us His name. I have a hunch that we don’t sing or talk about adoption for fear that it might break our hearts for the children that need adopting near us.
Seven years ago, I was in court. I was holding our foster daughter in my arms. With a smile on His face and with just
a few words, the judge transformed our foster daughter into our adopted daughter. It reminded me of the moment when God transformed me, when I became a Christian at 15 years old. Through the witness of a friend at school, I was “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.” I was declared righteous by the judge of the universe. I became more aware and more grateful of my adoption into God’s family. God planted a passion for adoption in my heart. We need to recover a vision of our adoption if we are going to correctly relate to God. We need to recover a vision of our adoption so that God will soften our hearts to the need in our nation.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN BE INVOLVED
1. Pray. Pray that we would see a culture change across the Canadian church, so that together we can find “homes for good” for all the children currently waiting for one and that our churches can become welcoming spiritual homes for the good of carers and vulnerable children alike.
2. Champion. If you care about this issue, would you consider championing the needs of vulnerable children in your church and helping spread a passion for fostering and adoption throughout the Canadian church?
3. Celebrate. Have your church celebrate ‘Adoption Sunday’ joining with thousands of churches around the world from Ukraine to Zambia to the Philippines as we celebrate our own adoption into God’s family but also learn about God’s compassion for widows and orphans. More information can be found at this website: www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/adoptionsunday
4. Read. There are lots of resources about adoption and fostering available in bookshops. For a Christian perspective, why not order the book, Home for Good, by Krish and Miriam Kandiah, published by Hodder, through your local Christian bookshop.
Dr Krish Kandiah is Executive Director: Churches in Mission, Evangelical Alliance UK. Krish and his wife Miriam are birth parents, adoptive parents and foster carers. Krish leads the UK based Home for Good campaign www.homeforgood.org.uk . He blogs regularly at www.krishk.com and can be found on twitter @krishk . He was the plenary speaker at the CMDA Canada national conference in Barrie, ON in May 2014.