Love for the Fatherless: A Theology of Adoption

by | May 14, 2020

Love for the Fatherless: A Theology of Adoption. Almost six years ago, my husband and I walked out of a magistrate’s court in the Northern Cape, South Africa. We were suddenly mother and father to a six-month-old black baby boy whom we had met only a day before. We three had nothing in common (except for our shared humanity.)

But we were now a family.

I realize that this scenario is strange to many. But to us, adoption is simply the way our middle child joined our family. There are many unique challenges to trans-racial adoption, which I have written about previously. But just as feelings of newness wear off of any new relationship, so it is with a family formed through adoption. After a little while, we were just a bunch of people doing life together, with little thought given in the day-to-day to our different beginnings.

Doesn’t this remind you of God’s family? Ethnically, generationally, and economically diverse individuals, forever joined together by our Father, as real brothers and sisters?[1] And though we, too, can lose the sense of wonder at this compelling and transcendent community, we would do well to set our gaze on the beautiful, if familiar, truth that physical adoption reflects the very heart of God.

The fact is that our son is not the only adopted member of our family. My husband and I were also adopted into a Family. Of course, we want to be sensitive with this truth to avoid discounting the very real inner struggles that people who have been adopted often experience. Physical adoption is not the same thing as spiritual adoption. But just as our son’s physical adoption into our family was real, so our spiritual adoption into God’s family was real. Just as marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, so adoption is a tangible expression of God’s love for his people (Romans 8:14-17).

I was a rebellious sin-immersed person, just like the Bible describes each of us before Christ; an unrighteous enemy of a holy, sin-hating God. Despite my condition, this compassionate God deliberately planned to take me out of my hopeless situation and make me righteous. The perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, crossed the greatest cultural barrier and suffered in my place in order to pay a price for my freedom from the Devil’s family and to legally satisfy God’s own law and justice. Through the faith that the Holy Spirit gave me, God adopted me into his forever family, giving me a new and lasting identity. Now nothing can separate me from my new Father. Not only do I have legal standing as his child, but my Father pours out the Holy Spirit in my heart, giving me assurance and familial intimacy with God. I now instinctively call God, “Abba! Father!”[2]

Although the details differ, all Christians share this same adoption story.

Praise God!

Physical adoption helps us to more concretely understand our own spiritual adoption.

And our spiritual adoption gives us a clearer picture of what physical adoption is intended to be: proactive, unconditional, costly, loving, enduring, and worked out for the glory of God. (1)

There is overwhelming evidence in the Bible that God cares deeply for vulnerable children, and if we are to be faithful God-imitators (Ephesians 5:1-2), we will care deeply as well.

  • If God created every human being in the Imago Dei, or the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), then we will imitate him and value the sanctity of ALL children’s lives, whether they share our racial likeness or not.
  • If God describes himself as a father and helper of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5, 10:14), then we will imitate him and practically fill the gap left by absent or deceased parents.
  • If God delights to set the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6), then we will imitate him and give a family to children who are alone.
  • If God instructs his people to defend the cause of the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17) and to care for orphans (James 1:27), then we will imitate him and act for the justice of vulnerable children (both born and preborn.)
  • If Jesus valued children – welcoming and blessing them (Mark 10:14-16), healing them (Matthew 15:28), using their offerings in his service (John 6:9-10), and holding them up as an example of how to live (Matthew 18:3-4), then we will imitate him and value ALL children, regardless of their age, race, abilities, or beginnings.
  • If Jesus reaffirms God the Father’s command to treat others the way we would wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12), then we will imitate him and adopt children who need healthy Christian homes (because that is how we would want to be treated if we were in the same situation.)
  • If God so compellingly creates a family out of every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9), then we will imitate him and bring children into our families from beyond natural racial boundaries.

 

I am not suggesting that adoption is the ONLY way to imitate God’s care for vulnerable children. There are different ways to be involved and we should count the cost lest we unwittingly add more pain and confusion to these children’s lives. That said, doesn’t this all make beautiful, perfect sense? That the God who so tenderly and protectively refers to the fatherless, the orphan, and the little children uses adoption to describe his relationship with his own people? I love how I can offer this truth to my adopted son as an extra layer of comfort and reassurance that he is in good company.

Our Father is strong and kind. May we imitate his strength and kindness in our care for vulnerable children.

 



Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray for a sense of wonder and thankfulness that we have been adopted into God’s forever family.
  2. Pray for a heart that cares deeply for vulnerable children.
  3. Ask God to show you how to imitate His care for vulnerable children.

 

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Author

  • Allison van der Walt

    Allison van der Walt is a Christian wife and mom living in Johannesburg, South Africa. She and her husband, Tommie, have three children. In their ten years of marriage, they have lived in India and Washington, D.C. They are members of Brackenhurst Baptist Church.

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