Next month, believers in Jesus will celebrate the virgin birth of their sinless Savior. We will think of the annunciation and Mary’s hymn of praise, the cattle stall and the extraordinary star in the sky.
How often do we think of Joseph? And, perhaps most importantly, how often do we think of his role as the world’s foremost adoptive father?
Scripture is clear that Jesus is the prophesied “Son of David,” the long-foretold inheritor of Israel’s throne (Matthew 1:1). This is a critical element of his messianic portfolio; were He not the rightful king of the Jews, Jesus would have been yet another pretender, a religious fabulist best forgotten. Rather, His right to rule the Jewish people is so essential to His assertion to be their Savior it is iterated twice even in the Book of Revelation (5:5, 22:16).
Jesus’s claim to the throne, articulated in Joseph’s genealogy, is affirmed throughout the Gospels, yet we seldom remember that this lineage was His, at least in part, because his legal father (Joseph) was descended from David.
That the eternal Son of God, through the Father made the world, was adopted is a strking thought. Yet in another sense, it should be a rather ho-hum fact for Christians.
Why? Because adoption is a healthy thing. It is the engrafting, legally and, more importantly, emotionally of a child into a family. For many couples, including my wife and me, adoption created their families. That adoption is a personal, social and moral good should be, at least for Christians who take their Bibles with any measure of seriousness, axiomatic.
But some people still struggle with the idea of adoption, as though a non-biological relationship with one’s child will be an impediment to love or loyalty.
This is troubling. If the fact of non-biological relationship prevents a Christian man or woman from giving to a boy or girl the affection, commitment and security for which he or she is longing, that dear soul needs to meet with a mature Christian counselor and work through it.
To sustain such a spirit unchallenged is to abandon one’s heart to fear, coldness or bigotry. It is to embrace an rough internal callous rather than to beat with the heart of flesh and compassion to which God calls those He has Himself called to be His own.
Some professing believers seem unaware that in Christ, all Christians are adopted. Our estrangement from and sinful stench in the nostrils of our Creator and Redeemer did not prevent Him from welcoming us into His arms.
In Romans 8, Paul teaches that all believers in Jesus are adopted “as sons,” and that through this new status before God, we are able to “cry out, ‘Abba! Father’ … and if (we are) children, (we are) heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (vv.15-17). It is thus that followers of Jesus are also His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11), surely one of the most humbling and beautiful truths of Scripture.
For believers in our country, all of these truths come home in a unique way this month: November is National Adoption Month.
In proclaiming the first National Adoption Week (expanded to a month while Bill Clinton was President), Ronald Reagan – the adoptive father of a son, Michael – reminded us, “More children with permanent homes mean fewer children with permanent problems. That is why we must encourage a national effort to promote the adoption of children, and particularly children with special needs.”
National Adoption month is designed to encourage current and potential moms and dads across the country to consider making a child their own. Thankfully, many Americans have responded: According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, “In 2007 and 2008, approximately 136,000 children were adopted annually in the United States. This represents a 6-percent increase in adoptions since 2000 and a 15-percent increase since 1990.”
However, the advocacy agency AdoptUSKids notes that thousands of children are languishing in foster care:
More than 250,000 children in the U.S. enter the foster care system every year. While more than half of these children will return to their parents, the remainder will stay in the system. Most of these children are living with foster families, but some also live in group facilities … Each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care without being adopted. Today there are 104,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21.
Some of these children have profound developmental, psychological or physical needs. And, too, not all Christian adults are emotionally or financially equipped to deal with children who have such needs. Additionally, families who already have children are wise to be cautious about bringing into their homes children who might have a history of violence or threatening behavior, especially if kids already in the home are younger and thus more vulnerable.
With all of that said, there is a difference between inability and unwillingness: If you have the ability, do not let the discomfort and nuisance and even pain of raising children who “act out” or who need continuous and extensive physical care prevent you from extending to them the same love Jesus Christ has extended to you.
In this short piece, I have focused on domestic adoption, but of course there is a world of children who need loving homes. Their needs are real and the potential dangers for them as they grow-up in subsistence orphanages or worse are so ugly as to discourage description. But whether domestic or international, adoption is an imperative for the body of Christ.
The benefits of adoption are legion. As my colleagues with Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute have documented, “Adoption in the first 12 months of the child’s life produces the best outcomes, but all children will benefit, regardless of their age at placement.”
If you are of an age and in a place spiritually, emotionally and financially where you can adopt, prayerfully consider it. Seek the counsel of Godly men and women, including some who themselves have adopted. Research the issue and find out where and how adoption might fit into God’s plan for your life and that of your family. That’s the least you can do before a loving Father who, in His Son, adopted you.