The Many Facets of Gospel Demonstration
From the inception of the Church, Christians have cared for and loved children who society has abused, neglected, and discarded. In A.D. 200, church father Tertullian said, “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.” Despite the tumultuous 2,000 year history of Christianity, one consistent practice has been the Church’s care for the orphan. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Christians have played a massive role in the fostering and adoption of hundreds of thousands of children across the globe.
The narrative that often motivates Christians to pursue fostering and adoption is that adoption presents a clear illustration of the gospel. Every Christian was by nature and choice an enemy of God and outside of relationship with the Father. Yet, Jesus, in his loving mercy, lives the life we cannot and dies the death we deserve. Through his cross and resurrection, those who have turned from their sin and put their faith in Christ alone are now brought fully into the family of God. In the same way, we as Christians, welcome and bring children into our homes- based on nothing the child offers, but solely by our unconditional love and grace. We welcome children in, we love them as our own, and grant them full rights as if they were a child born of our own wombs.
As Christians, we must continue loving, welcoming, and embracing children from hard and broken places by bringing them into our lives and families. Though adoption does present a clear example of the truth of the gospel, it is not the only way we can present the truth of God’s work of salvation in history.
My goal is to humbly suggest that we the Church expand our understanding of what it means to love children who have entered into the foster system. Children must be the primary focus but they should not be the exclusive focus. As Christians, we believe that all people are made in the image of God and worthy of dignity, value, and respect. When it comes to the foster care system, key parties can be easily overlooked, most often being the biological parents of kids in foster care. The Gospel alone can be our motivation and example of why Christians should seek reunification and restoration of families impacted by foster care.
Jesus Restores Relationships
The Fall in Genesis 3 shows us how sin’s entrance into the world broke humanities’ relationships in four areas. We became relationally broken with God, each other, ourselves, and our environment. Through the gospel, Jesus brings about redemption in all four of those relational spheres. The cross of Christ doesn’t only make us right with God, but it also empowers us to pursue unity and reconciliation with one another. When the Church gets involved in loving children in the foster system we must also see the bigger picture of God’s ability to restore the entire family.
Jesus Redeems Individuals
So often when a foster family hears about the circumstances that have led to a child being removed from the home, our protective instincts kick in. Our knee jerk response is to demonize the biological parents and see ourselves as a type of savior, who is able to give a child a life free from the type of pain they’ve been caused. Our hearts should break, and we should find joy in knowing we can provide a safe and loving environment for the child. Where we tend to miss the mark, is once we’ve labeled biological parents we simply write them off altogether. What would it look like for the Church to look at the mess and seemingly hopelessness of biological parents and believe these families have hope through the gospel? If we truly embrace the truth of God’s redemption in our lives, we must believe he is capable of no less in the lives of others.
God’s Ultimate Sovereignty
Finally, reunification reflects the gospel in that it uniquely grows our trust in the sovereignty of God in incredibly dark and difficult situations. Nothing in the history of the world has caused more defeat and hopelessness then the cross of Jesus Christ. On the cross, the creator of the universe, who made the cosmos with his spoken word, was murdered by the creation he made out of dirt. In the resurrection, we see that the most hopeless moment in the history of the world was not beyond the sovereignty of God. And still today, the most horrific scenarios are not beyond the sovereignty of God. What would it look like to press into families’ narratives and trust that the biological parents are the parents God desires for these children, they are for their good, and they are not beyond God’s redemption? Though adoption is a good and beautiful thing in many cases, let us press into the restoration of families as we trust God’s sovereignty.
The Church can and must play a vital role in teaching a robust understanding of the gospel and all of its implications. We must also equip our foster families to holistically care for and love the children and parents that are experiencing the unique brokenness that comes with having a child removed from the home. Finally, we must start seeing biological parents as image bearers of God, well within God’s ability to restore their families, and are intentionally placed by God in their families of origin. Adoption uniquely demonstrates the gospel. Praise God and let’s keep adopting! Reunification also demonstrates the gospel. Praise God and let’s start working to make families whole.
I lead our Resource Development Team and have been a part of the For the City Network since 2017. I have an M.Div in Missional Studies and a M.A.R in Intercultural Studies from Liberty University. I am married to my beautiful wife Angela and we have four kids. I am a native of San Antonio, TX, and now live in the inner-city of Austin, TX.