Abba Changes Everything
Thus, the adoption and orphan care movement teaches us something revolutionary about the evangel.
Orphan Care: Spiritual Warfare
We evangelicals often seem to identify more around corporate brands and political parties than with each other in our local churches. But our adoption in Christ makes us not warring partisans but loving siblings, whom the Spirit has taken from the babble of Babel to the oneness of Pentecost. The church's unity attests to the "manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10). Would our gospel be more credible if "church family" wasn't just a slogan, if "brothers and sisters" was more than metaphor? What would happen if the world saw fewer "white churches" and "black churches," fewer "blue-collar churches" and "white-collar churches," and fewer baby boomer and emerging churches, and saw more churches whose members have little in common except being saved by the gospel?
Our churches ought to be showing the families therein how love and belonging transcend categories of the flesh. Instead, though, it seems God is using families who adopt to teach the church. In fact, perhaps we so often wonder whether adopted children can really be brothers and sisters because we so rarely see it displayed in our pews. Some—maybe even you—might wonder how an African American family could love a white Ukrainian baby, how a Haitian teenager could call Swedish parents Mom and Dad. The adoption movement is challenging the impoverished hegemony of our carnal sameness, as more and more families in the church are starting to show fellow believers the meaning of unity in diversity.
That's why adoption and orphan care can ultimately make the church a counterculture. The demonic rulers of the age hate orphans because they hate babies—and have from Pharaoh to Moloch to Herod to the divorce culture to malaria to HIV/AIDS. They hate foster care and orphan advocacy because these actions are icons of the gospel's eternal reality. Our enemies would prefer that we find our identity and inheritance in what we can see and verify as ours—the flesh—rather than according to the veiled rhythms of the Spirit. Orphan care isn't charity; it's spiritual warfare.
A New Household Economy
After we learn more about our gospel identity, we start reflecting the economy and priorities of our new household. The God of Israel consistently urges his people to care for the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant (Deut. 24:17-22) by noting his adopting purposes as "Father of the fatherless" (Ps. 68:5). He announces, "If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry" (Ex. 22:23). The Spirit drives us not just to cry Abba in the Christian gospel, but also to respond to the cries of the weak through Christian mission.
Orphan care is, by definition, missional. Paul's letter to the Romans, which includes perhaps the clearest explanation of the doctrine of adoption, isn't a systematic theology text; it's a missionary manifesto, calling the church in Rome to unify and to join Paul in making Christ known to the nations (Rom. 15:1-21). This is why James—the brother of Jesus—tells us that caring for widows and orphans is the essence of "pure and undefiled" religion (1:27). And Jesus himself—adopted by the righteous Joseph—identifies himself with the "least of these my brothers" (Matt. 25:40). And he tells us that the first time we hear his voice in person, he will be asking if we did the same.