It's strange how our society treats adoption. "Will you," asked the attorney before the watchful eyes of the judge, "love and care for this child in every way the same as you would if he were your natural, biological son?" The flawed assumption of the question is that shared DNA somehow equals a level of love that adoptive families should strive to attain. Before my youngest was born, people would ask me the big "what if" questions. "What if the mom did drugs?" "What if the baby has a hereditary disease?" "What if. . ." Really, these questions are founded in the incorrect assumption that a non-adopted baby is born perfect, free of "problems" or "complications." And my favorite question (although I admit I myself have wrongly worried about this question) is: "What if the birth mother wants her baby back?" Flawed question! Do parents ever have to deal with losing their biologically born children to things like divorce or kidnapping or death? And taken away from who? Do we own our children? Are only adopted children on loan, or are all children? I like to think that God has put children--adopted or not--in our care only for a time. Psalm 127:3 says "children are a heritage from the Lord" but Genesis 2:24 says that "man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife," that is, the child, a gift of God, will grow up and become a family of his own. It's only for a time; sometimes only a very short time.
The Israelite law of the biblical Old Testament made no legal provision for adoption. There were provisions for orphans; and in situations of infertility, there was polygamy and the use of slave concubines. However, examples of adoption are found in the Bible. While Abram was still childless, he had it in mind that Eliezer of Damascus would be is heir. (Genesis 15:1-4) In that time, the heir was to be the first born son and would receive all that the father had. But in the case of Abram, a non-biologically born person was chosen (although God had another plan for Abram). And of course there's Moses. At a time when the male Israelite slave babies were killed at birth by the Egyptians, a mother desired to save her baby. This Levite woman placed her baby boy in a basket and floated him down the Nile river, sending the baby's big sister to watch from the bank to see what might happen. Pharaoh's daughter found the baby and took him in as her own. (Exodus 2:1-10) And even Esther was raised by her uncle Mordecai, who, the book of Esther tells us, "had taken her as his own daughter." (Esther 2:7, 15)
Jesus was adopted by Joseph (and Mary, depending on your theology). Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived in Mary's womb apart from any sexual encounter or inheritance of any sin nature; instead by way of the Holy Spirit coming upon her (Luke 1:35). Like most ordinary men would, when Joseph learned Mary was pregnant he had in mind to divorce her, that is, until an angel appeared to him and explained the situation. (Matthew 1:19-20) But we can read in Luke 2:33 that Joseph was called Jesus' father. However, only a few verses later (48), Mary asks the boy Jesus, "Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress" and Jesus seems to correct her statement. Clearly there's an interesting earthly verses spiritual adoption dynamic here because Jesus points out that he is in his father's house, meaning in the house of God, claiming that he was the Son of God. And yet, when Jesus, now a grown man, came back to his home town and proclaimed he was the Messiah, the community asked, "Is not this Joseph's son?" (Luke 4:22) So while we can't know if Joseph loved Jesus like the biologically born children he and Mary had together, we do see that he took on the earthly role of father. It seems Joseph adopted Jesus as his own son, loving him in the same way a father today would love his adopted son.
Often when we think about adoption, we overlook the birth mother. Think about Moses' mother. She could have tried to hide the baby, and if she succeeded she would have been able to remain close to her son. What did she have to lose? If she gave the baby up, he would die; if she tried to hide the baby but failed, he would die. But she chose a better option for the baby. And in another situation, recorded in 1 Kings 3:16-28, two prostitutes come before King Solomon. One had rolled over on her baby, killing it, so she kidnapped the child of the other woman and claimed it as her own. When both women made claim to the baby, Solomon suggested cutting the baby in half so each woman could have equal portions of the child. But when the mother of the child heard this, she pleaded with Solomon to let the other woman have the baby. She pleaded to let the other woman "adopt" the child. On the other hand, the second woman was content to see the baby cut. And it was in this great love for her child--so great that she would give the baby up so the baby would live--that Solomon saw the rightful mother. When a birth mother gives up her child, she should be honored for making a selfless sacrifice, as well has having love for her child and concern for the baby's future. Lisa and I are extremely thankful for both of our boy's birth mothers. What a great thing they did for us and for their babies!
But there is something else that should shape our thinking about adoption. In Galatians, Paul writes, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God as sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba!" Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God" (Galatians 4:4-7). We are God's creation, but through faith in Christ Jesus, God's Son, we become children of God through adoption, able to see God not as some far away being, but as our "Daddy!" And for those who believe, trust, and submit to King Jesus, the Son of God, we become heirs of the Kingdom and receive eternal life.