The New York Times recently ran an article entitled “Eager to Adopt, Evangelicals Find Children, and Pitfalls, Abroad.” These pitfalls include local corruption and poor communication to the birth families about the terms of the adoption, among other things. The international adoption process, moreover, is notoriously expensive, laborious, and emotionally draining. In light of these difficulties, it might seem that the safe course of action would be to adopt domestically or even to forego adopting altogether. Yet evangelicals continue on to adopt domestically and internationally at very high rates.
Why? They do so largely as the practical outworking of the Christian imperative to love in a manner that mirrors God’s love. Adoption, like childbearing, is the gift of the self to a new life. It offers the child inclusion and acceptance into a family who demonstrate their self-sacrificial love through the difficult process of adoption. Adoption thus epitomizes Christ’s call to love our neighbor – even the stranger whom we have never met – as ourselves: adoptive parents share their table, their finances, and indeed their own homes and lives with a complete stranger. Christians do not believe that the value of a life is contingent upon how desired that life is by another, but even if we did, there would be no question that adopted children are desired children.
This is not to say that non-Christian families are somehow deficient in their practice of adoption. On the contrary, the common grace of God that is given to all men ensure that most parents – even those with no religious commitments – can adequately and sincerely love their adoptive children as their own. But Christians, with their robust analogy to the Godhead itself, who have the clear precedent for costly adoption. The archetype of this love is God himself, whom the apostle Paul frequently depicts as “adopting” us as his own children (Gal. 4:5, Rom. 8:15, Eph. 1:5). Christians believe that though humans were created for fellowship with God and inclusion into his love, their sin estranges them from that love. By cancelling the debt of sin through Christ’s death on the cross, God removes the estrangement “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5). Thus the Christian exemplifies the love of God by laboring through the process of including the foreigner or stranger into her own family. This is behavior that clearly demonstrates Christianity’s concern for human life transcends the “culture war issues” and is a powerful catalyst for selfless good in the public sphere. It is this costly love in action that can do little but help the thriving of any civilized and compassionate society.