Over the last decade, God has worked in amazing ways to raise awareness of His love for orphans among American Christians. This awareness had led to action, and thousands of orphans and foster children have been adopted into Christian families. Sadly, many of these families are now barely surviving.
Hope for Orphans was privileged to be a founding leader in this adoption movement and in the birthing of The Christian Alliance for Orphans. But, as with most movements of God’s Spirit, the flesh can bring new dangers even when intentions are good. As this movement has grown in tandem with a passion for social justice, there has been a temptation for some to view adoption as a new badge of spirituality. Desiring to adopt to have a family and desiring to adopt in order to give a child a family are both wonderful motives. However, there is an ever-increasing need to examine our real motives when approaching adoption.
After 15 years of ministry to adoptive families, we suggest that pastors and Biblical counselors, when serving prospective adoptive parents, encourage them to ask themselves these questions before entering adoption.
#1 Do you desire to have (or to have more) biological children but feel guilty because there are so many orphans who need families?
This is a big red flag because God’s word makes it clear that His plan was for biological children to be the result of becoming one flesh. It is a natural God-given desire to have biological children, which is a blessing.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! Psalm 127:3-5
Having biological children is a part of the natural order and plan of God. It was His idea and is actually a directive. Adoption came about as a result of sin. Like with spiritual orphans, God’s solution for physical orphans can and should be adoption, but this does not mean that we should dismiss having biological children thinking it is more pleasing to God to adopt.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it….” Genesis 1:28
Pushing aside God’s desire for us to have biological children with the mistaken view that it is spiritually more mature to adopt is a matter to be addressed through prayer.
#2 Do you desire to atone for past sins? Have you had an affair? Have you had an abortion? Have you struggled with pornography?
These and other behaviors can lead us to want to “make up” for past sins by doing something good…like adopting a child. But, the problem with this is that atonement is only possible through the shed blood of Christ.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9
#3 Do you desire to do something BIG for God?
Examining motivation is one of the most critical steps prior to adoption. We all want God to use us. We all want our lives to count. But, adopting a child is not a project, it is not a mission and it is not short term. Adoption is a lifetime commitment and with that comes the good and the hard. Adoption is a calling, like going to the mission field or becoming a pastor.
#4 Do you see yourself on Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram, blogs and Christmas photos spreading the story of your adoption?
This one is really hard. Do you secretly enjoy thinking about how adoption could bring attention to you or your family? Watch out for missional narcissism. Anthony Bradley says “Being a radical, missional Christian” is slowly becoming “the new legalism.” You know the feeling–everyone is adopting and I’m the only one who is not. Adoption is not the litmus test of your spirituality. And Christ said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
#5 Do you thrive on order and control?
Are your closets and pantry in perfect order? Would most in your home say that you live by the old adage, “my way or the highway?” If being in control is a serious means of security for you, adoption will most likely prove to be very difficult for you. High control adoptive parents often don’t attach easily and can struggle with the unpredictable.
#6 Do you think your biological children hung the moon and are all high achievers?
Children who come to your family through adoption could easily not only live up to your expectations, but often develop a real temptation to jealousy towards the biological children. This, in turn, can create a vicious cycle of frustration and anger in the family.
In conclusion, there are many motivations in adoption that come with good intentions, but at the end of day they are not ROOTED in Biblical soil. No child coming to a family through adoption wants to be a mission project. No child wants to be an act of service to atone for sins previously committed. Certainly no child wants to be a visible badge of spirituality. In fact, children simply want a family. They want a mom and dad to belong to who will love them unconditionally.
Adoption should be a true calling with a sense of oughtness from the Spirit that can’t be left behind.
Adoption as a calling should be seen as obedience despite how the story may play out.
Adoption should be about “Christ like” unconditional love rather than what it will mean for my family or me.
Adoption is not a bandwagon to jump on. It is an invitation to take up your cross and join God where He is working.
Launched by Paul and Robin Pennington in 2001, Hope for Orphans has equipped thousands of churches and tens of thousands of families in orphan ministry, adoption and foster care through its resources, tools and events. Hope for Orphans recently released a digital parenting resource for struggling parents called ROOTED.