His desire and plan was adoption….
As the Christmas season approaches, we are flooded with thoughts of childhood. They may be happy memories or deeply sad ones. We tend to think of what we want for the children in our lives. We cherish seeing the delight in their eyes when we shower them with gifts of love and share with them the wonder of the season. And we know that our home life and experiences as children affect us for the rest of our lives.
I also think of the child Jesus being born in Bethlehem to his adoptive father, Joseph and young mother Mary. I learned at an early age that this event so long ago could somehow transform all my other experiences, and it has. Eternally divine, filling the role of “the Son” in the triune God, he became a “son of man,” human, to accomplish something so spectacular that no one term can fully describe it. One powerful picture is adoption.
His disciple John recalled, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:11-12 NIV).
For God, the adoption process was not all roses. The Creator reached out to a creation that didn’t recognize him. They did not run to him right away with open arms. Many rejected him completely. These “children” were not vulnerable innocent victims. Romans 5:8-10 says that we were still sinners and enemies of God when Christ paid the ransom for our adoption with his life. We were broken, believing lies about God and ourselves, bearing the ugly fruit of sin, with nothing truly our own to offer. And yet this was his plan all along…to offer his enemies the opportunity to be his heirs!
Pity did not move him to mere handouts. His desire and plan was adoption. He did all he could to convince them of his love and goodness, to earn their trust, to bring them into his family. God moved into their neighborhood, shared in their struggles and worked miracles of love among them even when they hated and hurt him. And he is still reaching out like this, because God always wanted each of us to be his child long before we ever considered the idea, and he was willing to pay the ultimate price.
Jesus’ closest followers, led by the Spirit, used the metaphor of Roman adoption into sonship to help explain. To adopt someone as a son in Roman law meant that the father and son took on all the rights and responsibilities they would have if they had been biological father and son–the father providing support and instruction, the son learning to live as an heir. The son received not just a home to belong in, not just a father-figure to lean on, not just the obligation to obey, but the cancelling of previous debts and receiving the inheritance of the father’s property and the authority of a son in that father’s household. His name, identity, and future changed.
Scripture says that believers in the Son of God for salvation are “co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15-17). The spiritual debts from our sin, which we could never repay, have been cancelled as we rely on Christ’s death, and all the spiritual resources we need to live by faith are at our disposal because of the victory of his resurrection. We can cry out to God as our Father and know that he hears, cares and continuously works for our good (Romans 8:15, 27-28). We can trust that his discipline in our lives is out of love and his commitment to shape us into his beautiful likeness, our true selves (Hebrews 12:6-10; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10). We have a legacy of love to pass on here and now and the assurance of a glorious eternal inheritance kept safe for us in heaven. Our Father has shown his willingness to enter into our pain and rejoice in our joy and called us into the intimacy of sharing in his suffering and victory as well (Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:10).
This understanding continues to trickle deeper into all the dry cracks of my soul and create life. His faithfulness during my faltering, even faithless, steps is my strength. It is incredible to think that someone so different could become closer to me than any human.
One of my favorite quotes is from John Eldredge’s The Sacred Romance.
“You’ve heard that children care more that their parents love each other than that they love them and this is the reason why. It’s the assurance that there is something grand and good going on that doesn’t rest on your shoulders, something that doesn’t even culminate in you, but rather invites you up into it. And so it is with God’s story. Before any of our complex and sometimes overwhelming smaller stories began, there was something wonderful already going on: Once upon a time, were Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the kind of home we’ve been looking for all our life. From the beginning, we know that God is a lover at heart, from all eternity.”
From all eternity, this home has been waiting for you and me to come home to, simply by faith.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus said, referring to the Spirit who would come to each believer. ”Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me…On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20 NIV).
LaVonne Foix serves on the lead team at Restore Church, focusing on worship and women’s ministries, as well as being employed in retail. She is married to Pastor David with whom she spent eight years in youth ministry. Her BA from Vennard College is in Bible/Theology and Cross-Cultural Missions.