Ephesians 1:3-6 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." Romans 8:15 tells us, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" Have you ever really thought about what it means to be adopted into the family of God?
The other day I was privileged to attend an adoption ceremony. More accurately, it was a court proceeding. But it felt like a ceremony and was most assuredly a celebration. Relatives of the adoptive parents, friends, and childcare workers filled the courtroom, as did several bouquets of balloons. The joy and anticipation in the room were palpable.
When the judge began I was struck by the balance of excitement and formality. Everyone knew the judge would grant the adoption, yet he proceeded as if the decision were not yet finalized. He asked first the adoptive father and then the adoptive mother these questions: Do you believe you and your spouse are able to financially support these children should I grant this adoption? Do you and your spouse have a loving and stable marriage that would provide these children with a loving home? Do you understand that should you and your spouse separate you will have the same obligations to these children as you would to a child born of your union with your spouse? Why do you believe it is in the children's best interest that I grant this adoption?
The children were viewed as an award. They are granted to the parents. And they are only granted to able parents. Did you catch all those commitments? Financial provision, emotional provision, lifelong loyalty, and an implied attitude of selflessness that acts in the best interest of the children.
My favorite response to these questions was the reason it is in the children's best interest to be adopted by this couple: "We're a family." The kids already belonged; the judge was simply rubber-stamping it. No need to go into the specifics of the bad situation from which the adoptive parents are essentially rescuing the children, no need to bolster up the abilities or the sacrifices of the adoptive parents. It was simple—"We feel like they're already ours."
So what about God? Obviously the analogy breaks down at points, but I think we can learn quite a bit about His adoption of us by looking at my friends' adoption of their children. Is God an able parent? Can He provide for us? Without question. One of God's names is Jehovah-Jireh, "the LORD will provide" (Genesis 22:14). Abraham used this name for God after nearly sacrificing his son of promise, Isaac. God demonstrated just how much He can provide by foreshadowing the way He would sacrifice His own Son in order to redeem us. Jesus reassured His followers, "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:31-33). I'm certain the Creator of the universe is more than able to provide for us.
Will God commit to us for life, accepting us as if we are His own flesh? Absolutely. Romans 8:16 tells us that we are "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." That means we are full-fledged children of God. Romans 8:31-39 says, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? […] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." God is committed to us no matter what.
God is more than able. God is more than loving. God is more than willing. And it is in our best interest to be adopted by Him because it is with Him that we truly belong. He created us (Psalm 139) and He has provided a path of redemption.
The judge, of course, granted the adoption. He looked at each child, affirmed his decision, and gave the child his or her new name. I cried.
All their first names remained the same. These kids' pasts remain a part of who they are. Their pasts have not been rejected, but have been welcomed in to a new family. They have been redeemed. Each child received a new middle name, a little love token that spoke to his or her character and to the adoptive parents' hopes for his or her future. Of course, they also received the last name of their forever-family. Fully accepted—past, future, and present. Named. Known. Loved.
Can you imagine? These children were in a helpless state with parents who were unable to care for them. It is likely the kids felt rejected. But they are far from unwanted. No, they have been chosen by ones who long to love and care for them. They have been fought for by parents who persisted through the ups and downs of the legal system, refusing to settle for less than the children's best. They were welcomed in to a family who loved them immediately and in which they truly belong.
This truth was very visible through the family's attire. They wore homemade T-shirts labeling them as team members, the parents as numbers 1 and 2 and the children successively numbered in the order of their births. Perhaps the sweetest to see was the baby—the parents' first biological child—as number 6. She is no more a child or less a child than the others. They are all one family. The parents are equally committed to all four. They became parents as soon as their adoptive children moved into their home, not when they first conceived. Though no vows were recited, I could not help but thinking they are committed to love and to cherish these children until death do them part.
And that's what God does for us. Can you believe it? You are wanted. You are chosen. You belong.
Amazing grace! Unending love.