When it comes to family, we often think about the wonder and mystery of pro-creation. There is good reason for this. There is a Trinitarian invitation through the sacrament of marriage for husbands and wives to take part in the creative power of God. Pro-creation is a sublime mystery. Because it involves human sexuality, it is easily misunderstood. Nevertheless, it is a supreme joy for every mother and father.
Adoption also has deep theological significance and basis. Analyzing the theological foundation of adoption can help us both better understand a profoundly generous human act and the Father’s work of salvation. In the end, adoption also bears a supreme dignity that should be promoted more broadly.
In several instances throughout his letters, St. Paul lays out a Theology of Adoption. “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.” (Gal 4:4-5) Here St. Paul directly states that we have become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through the Incarnation of the Son.
Christ exhorted us to call him brother and friend and thus with Christ we can say “Abba Father.” (Gal 4:6) The Semitic word “Abba” is a special key to understanding the significance of “Abba Father.” “Abba” is a very affectionate term for father. It would be like us saying “daddy.” Through Christ, we become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father and Father desires a kind of closeness with his adopted children that is signified by a word like “Daddy.”
St. Paul continues to say, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal 4:7) This means that through adoption, we have become heirs to all that the Father has. This idea of inheritance is extremely important. As adopted sons and daughters, we are not second class citizens, but rather full heirs of the heavenly kingdom. The Father’s love through adoption holds nothing back.
If we stop to think about it, this should blow our minds. God the Father desires that we, His adopted son and daughters, inherit EVERYTHING that is due to the Son. Christ, the Son, makes this possible by paying the adoption fee with His life. This kind of divine love simply doesn’t exist in any other religion.
In Ephesians, St. Paul explains that adoption through the Son is part of God plan for salvation. “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Eph 1:4-6)
The analogy between the Father’s plan for salvation through adoption and husbands and wives adopting children in need of families can teach us so much in both directions. God the Father’s adoption of all of us through the Son teaches us much about the dignity of adoption. At the same time, adopting children in need gives us a small glimpse of God the Father’s love in adopting us and making us full heirs. Of, course divine adoption and human adoption are the not the same, but the analogy is extremely important for understanding love, both human and divine.
After this brief tour of the Theology of Adoption, I hope you get one simple take-away. When you adopt a child, you are imitating God the Father.
Mo Woltering is the Headmaster of Covington Latin School. He is married and has 6 children.