By Tyler Edwards
When I got frustrated with my sister when we were growing up, I would tell her she was adopted. At the time, I thought it was insult. I was telling her that she wasn’t really one of us. It’s funny how things change. As I have grown in my relationship with God and my understanding of the gospel, I have come to realize that adoption isn’t a negative thing; it’s a beautiful thing. In fact, adoption is one of the clearest illustrations of the gospel the world will ever see.
A good friend of mine is going through the adoption process. He and his wife have been foster parents for years. They are trying to adopt a little girl who has been in their care since she was 3 days old. The process has taken almost two years and there is no end in sight. It’s cost them considerable time, energy, and money. They have poured out their emotions, hopes, desires, and lives with no guarantee the courts will side with them.
The people who are supposed to love her care more about themselves than their child. But two strangers with no reason to love her and no moral, social, or relational obligation to love her, have chosen to do so at great personal expense. What’s more, they don’t see it that way. Love never does. Love doesn’t look at the cost. It sees only what it can do for the one it loves. That’s the nature of love. It is naturally self-sacrificing.
My friend is experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions as he and his wife pour themselves out for a little girl who could be taken from them at any moment. They don’t have to love her. She doesn’t deserve it. She hasn’t earned it. She isn’t old enough to appreciate it. Their love for her is a conscious, self-sacrificing choice. It’s easy to love things that are lovely. It’s easy to love someone who loves you back. It’s easy to love when things are good. The truest and purest love sustains storms and struggles. It is given without expecting anything in return. It is unbalanced. It isn’t based on how people make us feel. What could portray that kind of love more clearly than adoption?
Perhaps that’s why the gospel is all about adoption. God is not our birth Father. He has no social, moral, righteous, or relational obligation to us. He doesn’t owe us anything. We are not entitled to his affection. We aren’t worthy of it or even natural recipients of his love. Being a good person doesn’t mean we are worthy of God’s affection. In our sin, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves deserving of God. The idea that being a good person means that God owes us something is utter nonsense.
Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we were in open rebellion against God, he sent his Son to die for us. When we were his enemies, God gave his Son to make us his children. The Bible tells us that we are not natural descendants of God, but that as Christians, we are adopted into his family. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
We were not God’s children from birth. We were enemies of God. We rejected him. We walked away from him. Even so, he loved us. He has called us, reached out to us, and tried to bring us into his family. He labored for us. Pursued us. Not because he had to. God has no obligation to us the way a birth father does for his children. Out of the overflow of love in his heart, God poured out his love on us and made us his children. He adopted us into his family, gave us his name, and brought us home. It wasn’t easy. It cost him a lot. He loved us so much he decided we were worth it.
God adopted us. That’s grace. If the story of the gospel is about our adoption, what better way to live it out than through adoption ourselves? When we adopt a child we actively choose to love someone we have no responsibility for—not out of obligation or duty, but as an expression of the gospel.
Maybe you aren’t ready to adopt a child, but perhaps you can support a child through one of the many Christian child sponsorship programs available today. There are many routes to take, but there is something about investing ourselves in proactively, selflessly, loving others that grows our hearts towards God.
Adoption can be a pure and genuine demonstration of the gospel. When we adopt, when we foster, we are showing the world what it means to love someone not because they faithfully love us back, not for what they can give to us, but simply because we choose to love them.
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
We were adopted by love, through love, and out of love. There is no clearer demonstration of the heart and character of God than willingly choosing to offer selfless, sacrificial love to someone else. Christians are known and characterized by love. Maybe if we focus more on finding ways to express the pure, selfless love of God, we will be seen more clearly as the children of God we are.
Tyler Edwards is the Discipleship Minister of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.