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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Theology of Adoption

I've blogged before about my kids.  At last count, twelve other human beings now call me "Dad."  I serve in parental-type roles in the lives of even more than that.  But one of my friends on Facebook the other asked a question about the notion of theology in adoption.  It got me to thinking about my own spiritual journey and how the Holy Spirit has led me in my thinking about adoption.  Let me tell you about what He's taught me.

In July 2007 I was teaching at Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda (East Africa). I'd heard of a scenario they call "child head families" - where the children are raising themselves. (This is usually because the orphanages are full.) One Sunday afternoon, a local pastor took me into a slum to introduce me to some of them and show me how they live. We met a few, but one "family" particularly struck me. They were eight children, six siblings and two cousins of those siblings. We gave them some money and prayed with them.

When I came home, I continued praying for them. Over the coming weeks and months, as I would pray for them, God would take us to Scripture that says "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39, etc.) One night my wife and I were discussing what God might be saying to us, and my wife said, "Well, if I were dead I'd want someone to take care of my kids. And if I were an orphan on the street, I'd want someone to take care of me." We wrestled with that a bit, but by November 2007 we were ready to obey. We took all eight of them on.

People wonder if Christians are obligated to adopt. I think we are. James 4:17 tells us that it is sin if we know the good we ought to do and we don't do it. So I put those two basic Biblical principles together ... and I get an obligation to parent as many children as I have resources for. I've heard some add Matthew 25:40 to that, where Jesus said that caring for the "least of these" is the same as caring for Him. In fact, He said in John 21:15-17 that if we love Him, we are to "feed His sheep." These are at least these four Bible verses that help me conclude that Christians should adopt.

Adopting all our kids has been incredibly painful and hard.  It's also expensive and has nearly wiped us out financially more than once. But we don't think we have a choice. Beyond the obedience issue is simply the love issue. There are said to be some 30 million orphans in the world right now. I just don't have the ability to look any of them in the eye and say "I won't love you, and I won't take care of you." But in general terms, Christians in today's western society are doing just that.
Consider this. There are usually over 2,000 kids "in inventory" with Texas' Child Protective Services at any given time. You can shop on-line for a child (or sibling group) to adopt. Go to and browse what's in the state's inventory right now. As you scroll through these kids, think about the fact that nobody wants them. Nobody loves them. Nobody - not even the Christians, will care for them.

These kids are "wards of the state." If nobody stands in the gap for these kids, they will "age out of the system" --- meaning that when they turn 18, the state will give them three months worth of living expenses and set them out on the street. A shocking proportion of them will end up in prostitution, homelessness, in mental hospitals, committing crimes, in jail, etc.

To my way of thinking, there is definitely a theology of adoption.   Unfortunately, it's a theology that I don't think very many Christians even imagine.  I'm most troubled by it when I drive around my own community and see how many people have large homes with extra bedrooms.  They're still in reasonably good health and have the financial resources to support more children.  Maybe their own children are grown.  Maybe they never had children.  Even if they do still have children at home, many of them are still with sufficient resources to take on more.  And yet they don't.

It's as if they're looking at these thousands and millions of kids who need parents and literally saying, "Nobody wants you.  Nobody will love you.  Not even me."  I wonder how God will judge us for this. 

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