The following is a reprint from the February CovenantalDivide newsletter.
There is something akin to spring-cleaning on steroids going on in my home. Any given day during the week a new closet is being cleaned out, furniture has been shifted or other adjustments have been made to our home. Last night it was the kitchen. I walked in the door, rounded the corner into the kitchen and was greeted with a family newsflash from my wife. “I’ve rearranged all of the kitchen cabinets so you might not know where anything is anymore.” She was right. I opened a cabinet door, reached for a cup and found a stack casserole dishes staring me in the face. After a couple of failed attempts with other cabinet doors she graciously pointed me in the right direction so I could pour myself something to drink.
One might call this a time of change. My label of choice might be acute abode adjustment syndrome. For whatever else it may be called, I have learned that this is a common phenomenon referred to as “nesting”. What is nesting? One definition on thefreedictionary.com defines it as “the tendency to arrange one’s immediate surroundings, such as a work station, to create a place where one feels secure, comfortable, or in control.” In my house, this happens when a new baby is on the way. My wife Tina and I have three children 3, 6 and 19. And if all proceeds smoothly we will have another addition soon. This one is a little different than our past experiences as we are adopting this time. It will be an infant adoption. We pray for and support the mother during her pregnancy until the day she delivers and gives up her legal rights to the child in hopes of placing them into a loving home that will raise and care for the child through adulthood.
The issue of adoption is important because it is at the heart of covenant. When a child comes into a family through adoption they come under the covenant boundary of that family. They are then treated as a part of that single covenant entity. The covenant unit, as we might refer to it, is recognized by the church and by the state. Both covenant institutions of the church and state then relate to the child through the covenant head of the family. The child belongs to (is owned by) their new family. If that family belongs to God then by default the child does now as well. The same is true for their national identity. If mom and dad are Americans then the new adopted child is an American. It really is that simple.
Perhaps the most beautiful picture adoption affords us is that of the gospel itself. Outside of Christ we are all dead in our transgressions. We quite literally “belong” to Satan. By blood lineage we are destitute and in need of a loving family.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV)
This is the gospel. Interestingly, we are still plagued in this life by the obsession with blood lineage that has haunted men since the beginning of time. In an instructive book entitled Adopted for Life, the author recalls struggling with this very concept. It is something with which many of us may resonate. The author states, “I told my wife, ‘I don’t mind adopting a few years down the road, but I want my first child to be mine.’ I can still hear my voice saying those words – and it sounds so small and pitiable and hellish now.”1
The truth is, blood descent still reigns in our thoughts surrounding family. I am not saying that God does not want to bless many couples with children from their loins. These children are surely a blessing and this is a primary way in which God intends to extend his family. I am merely calling out a misplaced emphasis in this area. Have you ever stopped to wonder why this might be the case? Would not the Enemy wish for us to have this obsession? After all, to the extent we carry this emphasis over and against that of adoption we rob the gospel of an important facet of its beauty.
If blood lineage is not preeminent in God’s economy then what is? Covenant. Think of the Great Commission.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)
This is God’s plan for extending his New Covenant boundary throughout the earth. This is the ultimate portrait of adoption. For whatever else we may say about the subject, we know that when a child is adopted into our family it is a picture of the gospel. Another statement is appropriate from the same author quoted above. He says in the first chapter of his book, “adoption isn’t charity – it’s war”.2 And so it is – adoption in any form. Whether through evangelism of the pagan, baptism and instruction of our natural children, or the adoption of children into our covenant household, this is surely war. Satan would have us think otherwise. Christ would have us look to him and the beautiful picture of our own adoption as sons. He would have us see the victory we have through Christ and the call to manifest his rule progressively throughout the entire earth.