For well over a week now it has been a matter of serious and constant controversy and tension. What is normally a highly admirable and respected act of love and sacrifice has suddenly soured and is now viewed by some as dangerous, if not evil.
The ongoing dispute erupted when an American adoptive mother made a grave error. She returned her 7-year old Russian son to his former country by placing him alone on a plane with only a short note explaining her actions. The letter was addressed simply, ‘To whom it may concern” and claimed she had been misled by the Russian orphanage about the very serious nature of the psychological condition of the child.
The dispute is continuing over proposed adoptions of Russian children to American families with some Russian officials stating that adoptions of children by U.S. families will be soon suspended. Other Russian and U.S. officials dispute this and are hopefully correct since there are nearly 3,000 U.S. applications for adopting Russian children presently pending, according to the Joint Council on International Children's Services.
But with Russia, the numbers have declined sharply in recent years. Last year only 1,586 U.S. adoptions took place compared with nearly 5,800 in 2004. The decline is due in part to concerns by U.S. parents about reports of fetal alcohol syndrome and other problems faced by some Russian children. American officials from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security will be traveling to Moscow this weekend for meetings with Russian officials to clarify and hopefully calm the situation down.
What has happened in this case is particualy unfortunate – especially when considering that their are now 143 million orphans in the world most in desperate in need of basic care and loving homes.
The vast majority of adoptions, foreign and domestic, result in the forming of loving family units and the best way for underprivileged children to have a chance at a life they could never realize otherwise. Also, very few ever stop and consider the awful treatment given by some birth parents to their own children in what has become a world-wide scourge that far out numbers the occasional bad adoption experience. The numbers of abused children in America today alone by their own birth parents is growing beyond belief. One glance at the U.S. foster care system statistics alone confirms that reality quickly.
But the other unfortunate aspect often overlooked is the shadow it sometimes casts on the doctrine of biblical adoption taught in the Scriptures. In Nelsons Illustrated Bible Dictionary adoption is defined as, “The act of taking voluntarily a child of other parents as one's child; in a theological sense, the act of God's grace by which sinful people are brought into his redeemed family. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated adoption literally means "placing as a son." It is a legal term that expresses the process by which a man brings another person into his family, endowing him with the status and privileges of a biological son or daughter.”
Galatians chapter four shows how God brings lost sinners into His spiritual family in spite of their many serious problems all involving direct rebellion against Him. Verse 3-5 declare, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.“ Verses 6-7 then show the value and unique intensity of this supernatural relationship. “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Paul, in His letter to the church at Rome, speaks more on the subject. Romans 8:14-17 reads, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
Ephesians 1:3-5 then shows the staggering blessings and benefits of adoption into God’s family. Verse 3 begins by stating, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
What is interesting, and perhaps most amazing, is that God’s adoption came, not to those who had few or easy problems to forgive or deal with. If anything, the opposite is true. His receiving us into His family was a combination of His great love coupled with our great need. Paul describes this amazing union in Romans 5:7-8. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We did not get what we all deserved but what God’s deeply unique love determined.
Biblical adoption is an interesting and sometimes difficult issue to grasp. But it is taught in Scripture nonetheless. On one hand, we are told that God chose some to be His intimate family members before the foundation of the world. But His word also speaks clearly and repeatedly about the great need and the only way for any individual to become a full-fledged family member comes through personal faith in Jesus Christ.
To a lost and needy world a loving God says in John 1:12-13, ‘To whom it may concern’: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”