This past week my brother and sister-in-law adopted a beautiful little girl, making my parents first-time grandparents and making me the proudest aunt ever!
Adoption is an important metaphor in the New Testament, introduced to us by the apostle Paul. It is not surprising that Paul, the lawyer, is the first and only biblical writer to employ the term uioqesia — to be made, or established as a son. Paul takes the very prolific concept of followers of God being children of God one step further by contrasting our newfound sonship with our one-time slavery:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17; see also Galatians 4:4-7)
As slaves to the inherent moral standard which belies our own fears and messed up desires (we all know murder is wrong and yet we all experience murderous thoughts and feelings), we have no legal standing, no rights, no righteousness—we’re not to be trusted. As sons, and the gendered metaphor is important here,* we have… everything: inheritance, authority, belonging.
Madilyn’s birth mother bravely chose adoption knowing it was the only way her child could have an abundant, promising life. In the same way, our spiritual adoption into God’s family is our hope and our salvation.
Somewhat curiously, Paul’s adoption metaphor focuses on the experience and gains of the adopted. What I experienced last weekend was a glimpse into what God the Father feels when we choose his family, which we see perhaps most vividly in Luke 15. Months of waiting, yearning, hoping and anticipating culminated in many, many tears of joy—and presents and a BBQ feast!—the day my brother and his wife held this precious little girl in their arms, kissed her face, changed her clothes and her name, and welcomed her into the family with love spilling out of every pore. This is God’s disposition toward us all.
*It’s only rather recently that daughters have the same legal status and standing as sons, and in many places around the world, this is still not the case. In the first century, it was certainly not the case, and yet Paul says that those in Christ are all sons, all in right standing, all in line to inherit, all legal representations of the Father, all equal. This is why Paul also famously (or infamously) says:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)