The apostle John famously declared that ‘We love because he first loved us.’ (1 John 4:19) What better way to demonstrate the love we have received from God than to express it? What better way to celebrate the love we have received from God than to show it to others?
Could the same be true in the sphere of fostering and adoption: ‘The people of God care for the vulnerable because God cared for us when we were vulnerable’? ‘We adopt because he first adopted us’? Of course, not every individual or family unit can adopt or foster but we the Church can all support those that do.
In an article on ‘Adoption in the Bible’, David Bartlett summarises the language of adoption in the Bible in the following way:
- Adoption is a powerful image for God’s activity with humankind because it makes clear that membership in God’s family is always the result of God’s activity.
- Adoption is a powerful image because adoption transcends the boundaries and barriers set by biological and ethnic identity. Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free – all can be adopted. And all become part of the same family.
- Adoption is a powerful image because it can be used both of individuals and of peoples. Israel is adopted by God’s activity, but so are King David and the kings that follow him. Jesus is adopted at his baptism or at his resurrection, but the whole Christian community is adopted into the family along with its elder brother.
- Adoption language often implies that the adoptive parent names the newly adopted child. It reminds us that the identity of faithful people is in the identities God gives rather than the identities we give ourselves.
- Adoption language points both to the present reality of God’s grace and to the future promise of participation in God’s glory…
- Adoption language allows believers to lay hold of the two sides of God’s parental role as we see it in the adoption poems in the prophets. On the one hand, they are called to live under the parental discipline of a wise God and to expect dire consequences if they fail. On the other hand, we know the God who adopts them may chastise them but will not let them go. (p. 395, my emphasis)
For the biblical writers, adoption language was the norm for describing who we are before God. One of the wonderful things about the renewed sense of energy in the Church for recapturing the language of adoption is that is helping us see more clearly what has always been there. We are adopted children of God. The more we are attuned to this aspect of our identity the more normal it will be to move from the vertical (God has adopted us) to the vertical (what is God calling us to do on behalf of vulnerable children in our midst?).
Read part one of the series: Because of who God is
Read part two of the series: Because vulnerable children occupy a significant place in the biblical narrative
Read part three of the series: Because it is a justice issue