Bible authors use earthly examples to explain eternal truths, but doing the opposite is dangerous. One such example is comparing our spiritual adoption through Christ with the earthly adoption of our children.
“He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:5, English Standard Version)
As adoptive parents, how many times have we seen our child’s eyes light up when someone reads a passage from Romans and the word adoption is spoken? They hear the word they know well and make the connection. However, it’s not an entirely true connection.
I’ve made the mistake of enforcing this idea myself because it was easier than taking the time to explain why they’re not the same. However, we do our children a disservice to continue with the belief that spiritual and physical adoption are equal. Here’s a better way to help our adopted children understand the difference.
How They Differ
The child is not the cause of the separation
As our children grow and begin to learn that sin separated us from our holy father, it paints an unnecessarily negative view of themselves prior to adoption. They may think their separation from their birth parents was deserved, or they are somehow to blame for their orphan status. Their personal sin is only the cause of separation from God, and the rest needs to be explained as it’s age appropriate and part of their adoption story.
Making this clear when adoption comes up in the Bible can be as easy as memorizing an appropriate sentence or two. Remind them of what they already know about their adoption story, while also enforcing the sin nature of man that belongs to us all.
We are not able to save them
Adoption by God is part of His salvation plan for us, but as adoptive parents, we fall short in our abilities to save our children from themselves. We can’t offer them eternal salvation. We can give them a loving home, do our darndest to help them heal from trauma, and impart as much wisdom as God has allowed us. Any other comparison to our Heavenly Father’s perfection is pushing it.
Instead of finding ourselves in comparison with God, we can use this moment to reiterate how much more God loves them than even we can (and that’s a whole lot). God should always be number one in their heart, and ultimately His adoption of us is the better deal.
How They Are Alike
We are forever adopted, just as they are
This is where we can compare the two adoptions with joy! How wonderful is it to know God’s adoption of us is forever, and so is our child’s earthly adoption? This is a perfect opportunity to reiterate the permanency of their adoption and that they are forever in our hearts. End the conversation with a great big hug, because how can you not?!
The motivating factor is love
It’s all about love. It won when Christ died for us on the cross and it continues with God’s adoption of us today. And we get to tell our adoptive children that we adopted them out of love, too.
We can never tell them we love them too much, or how much God loves them. Biblical adoption is a beautiful picture of God’s love, provision and encompassing of all people. And in that, it is quite like earthly adoption.
So how do we talk to our children about the difference between spiritual and physical adoption? Just tell the truth! While adoptive parents physically adopt their children, God spiritually adopts them back into His family when they receive salvation through Christ. We aren’t God and our children are not responsible for their adoption fate. But their adoption is out of love and will last a lifetime!
It’s important to share this adoption topic with well-meaning friends, family, and Sunday school teachers. Anyone not experienced or educated about adoption can easily make the mistake of not thoroughly exploring this topic with adopted children. Your adoptee deserves a clear understanding of how God’s adoption is different from our adoption of them. Feel free to share this blog post to help with that discussion.
Have you already had this conversation with your adoptee? Tell me how it went!