In 2016 there were 70,440 children in care in the UK. Of this number, 5% were placed back with parents and only 4% were adopted. This left the majority in foster care, secure units or other residential placements like children’s homes. How should that affect us as Christians? What can the Church do to help?
Why consider adopting?
• Adoption is a picture of the gospel
According to the Bible, our earthly families are meant to be a reflection of our heavenly Father (Ephesians 3:14-15). What God does for us is to adopt us into His family through His Son. Even though by nature we would never be in His family, all of us who are Christians have been “predestined for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5).
American pastor, writer and adoptive dad Russell Moore writes in his book ‘Adopted for Life’: “The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world.” We should adopt children because it reflects the gospel.
• Adoption brings children into God’s covenant community
In the UK, you will almost always be adopting children from foster care. You’ll most likely not be saving them from a life on the street or from a terrible home situation, though they may have faced these circumstances previously.
However, the likelihood of them being adopted by Christians is slim. We believe in a God who gives the children of believers special privileges and blessings. By adopting, we are taking a child who may never hear the true gospel message and giving them a chance to be a child who is brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
• Adoption is an alternative to abortion
As Christians we should hate abortion – it grieves God and destroys lives. The reality is, though, that if we are going to be against abortion we need to be for adoption. If we are speaking outagainst sin, then the Church needs to be leading the way in giving an alternative to mothers who are choosing life for their unborn children but cannot meet their needs.
• Adoption can break the generational cycle of sin and destruction
This is probably what got us thinking about adoption in the first place. Where our church is, we see sinful patterns passed from parents to children, who then become parents and pass them on to their children. This generational cycle of destruction never stops and leads to broken lives and a broken society. There is a whole debate about ‘nature vs. nurture’ which we won’t get into now, but a few years ago we started seeing the stark contrast between how children in our community would speak, behave and respond when they were in our home and church community and how they would speak, behave and respond in their own homes.
This isn’t because there is anything special about us, but because as Christians we live in a way that is different to what they normally experience. We believe children are sinners from conception (Psalm 51:5), but we also believe and see from the Bible that when we are faithful in parenting and training our children, God is faithful to keep His promise of saving them from what they would be when left to their own sinful nature.
• Adoption is caring for orphans
James 1:27 tells us that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”. (See also Psalm 82:3 and Exodus 22:22-24)
The reality of adoption
We’re passionate about Christians adopting, so it’s tempting to romanticise the idea and tell you that everything about the process is brilliant. But realistically, there are many hard things about adoption. Though it’s wonderful that children without families become part of a family, adoption always represents loss. It was never God’s design that children would not live with their biological parents, and this is something a child will have to learn to process and come to terms with as they get older. In some cases, though not all, there will have been trauma or abuse which inevitably leaves scars. There can be questions about development and health when adopting a younger child as often these things can’t be diagnosed until they’re older. There may be (but not always) some form of ongoing contact with the birth family.
Ultimately we had to keep coming back to this truth: it’s not about us.
These are things we thought long and hard about. They are not easy things to contemplate. Ultimately, though, we had to keep coming back to this truth: it’s not about us. God placed adoption on our hearts, not as a result of infertility (though we know this is a long and painful process for many couples and we pray for such couples), but as something He would have us do whether we could have biological children or not. So we also knew He would equip and sustain us with the grace we would need for every day ahead.
We understand God doesn’t call every Christian family to adopt, but we also pray that the Church would catch a vision for adoption. (The US church is setting an amazing example in this!) Being Christians in no way hindered the adoption process for us, so please don’t let that put you off.
Think again of those 70,440 children in care in the UK. Imagine the difference it would make to individual lives, and therefore society as a whole, if it was primarily Christians who would step forward and bring these children into their families. There are no guarantees with adoption: it’s uncertain, it’s emotional, it’s messy and there are risks. But with a God who controls all things and cares for every detail of our lives, it’s no risk at all. We don’t know for sure that our daughter will not struggle with the fact that she is adopted, or that she will come to love Jesus, but we do know that she can never say she wasn’t chosen, loved, cherished and taught the gospel. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Peter and Emma Loughridge, (North Edinburgh RPCS)
This article was originally published in the Messenger Magazine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and is shared with their permission.