When someone learns that I’m going to speak at their church about adoption, typically the first question is, “So will you be talking about the doctrine of adoption or, you know, real adoption?” That’s a hard question, because I cannot address one without addressing the other. We cannot master one aspect and then move to the other, from the vertical aspect of adoption to the horizontal aspect, or vice versa. Families, the Bible tells us, reflect something eternally true about God. It is God’s fatherhood after which every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph. 3:14-15). We know what human parenting should look like based on our Father’s behavior toward us.
The reverse is also true. We see something of God’s fatherhood in our relationship with our human fathers. Jesus tells us that our fathers’ provision and discipline show us God’s active love toward us (Matt. 7:9-11; Heb. 12:5-17).
The same principle is at work in adoption. Adoption is, on one hand, gospel. Our identity and inheritance are grounded in our adoption in Christ. Adoption is also mission. In this, our adoption spurs us to join Christ in advocating for the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned, and the fatherless. Without the theological aspect, the growing Christian emphasis on orphan care too often seems like one more cause wristband for compassionate conservative evangelicals to wear until the trend dies down. Without the missional aspect, the doctrine of adoption too easily becomes mere metaphor, just another way to say “saved.” Read more.