Alone. Enslaved. Unworthy. That is what we were.
Adopted. Free. Beloved. That is what we are.
“In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” – Ephesians 1:4b-6
Since the dawn of creation, God has planned to reach out his hand, in love, and adopt us as his children; and this adoption was not without cost. Jesus Christ shed his own blood and died, that we may be free children belonging to the Father.
This boggles my mind.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
The greek word for see is “horaó” meaning to “look upon, experience or perceive” with the mind, this great and abounding love. The inclusion of the phrase “And that is what we are!” reiterates the astonishing nature of this love. John is driving home the point, asking us to experience, perceive and dwell on this love, because he understands how unbelievable and incomprehensible it is.
“My sin I should be burned with, I’m guilty, filthy, and stained, but He became a curse, drank my cup and took my pain.” – Lecrae, Lucky Ones
While we were full of sin, living in rebellion, and unable to save ourselves, Jesus took the cup of wrath we deserved, that we may be adopted as a coheir with Him.
In the book Follow Me, David Platt touches on this astonishing love by comparing the adoption of his son Caleb, from an orphanage in Kazakhstan, to the way God adopts us into his family. He tells this story:
“One day when I yelled ‘I love Caleb’…he stopped, looked at me, and said, “You love me?”
I said “Yeah buddy I do.”
And then he asked what seems to be his favorite question: “Why?”
“Because you’re my son,” I said.
So he asked the question again: “Why?”
This time I thought to myself, Now that’s a good question…I teared up and said to him, “You’re my son because we wanted you. And we came to get you so that you might have a mommy and a daddy.”
Platt finishes the story with this analogy: “Doesn’t it take your breath away for a moment to hear God say, “I love you.” To which we, in our sinfulness, must certainly respond “Why?” To then hear Him answer, “Because you’re my child.” To which we must ask the obvious question, “Why would I, a hopeless sinner, now be called your precious child?” Only to hear him say, “Because I wanted you; and I came to get you so that you might know me as your Father.”
This beautifully depicts the appropriate response to God’s adoption of us; seeing, perceiving and dwelling upon (horaó) the Lord’s love for us, and in response, showing that love to others.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18
We are loved that we might love others. And what does this sacrificial love look like? James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
But there is a heart-breaking disconnect that we so often face; these people- these children- in our minds, they don’t affect us. We wake up every day and live our lives as if they didn’t exist.
“What can I do?”
“I’m too busy right now.”
“That’s not my problem.”
The list of our excuses is as long as my arm.
I beg you to dwell upon what our lives would be like if God was as unsympathetic to saving and caring for us as we often are to saving and caring for the orphaned.
We would still be alone, unloved, dead in our sin, without purpose, joy or hope.
But we aren’t. We are adopted. We are free. We are beloved.
And these children can be too.
In his book Radical, David Platt declares “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
I saw this truth become manifested in my own life exactly three years ago, in a small village in Tamale, Ghana. Since that day, God has continued to open my eyes and my heart to the fatherless and the least of these (not because I am a great person, but because I am the child of a great God). This summer, I was blessed to continue my journey with Christ by spending some time at Children of the Promise, an orphanage and multi-faceted ministry in Lagosette, Haiti.
The kingdom work, I witnessed at COTP (Children of the Promise) absolutely blew my mind. From the Haitian nannies, cooks and social workers, to the American families and young people serving day in and day out, God’s love is being made SO beautiful there.
COTP is currently the home to about 40 children, while simultaneously providing school sponsorships, special fortified food for malnourished children, prenatal help and immunizations, jobs, electricity, and clean water for the community. Through rehabilitative care, COTP seeks to help babies who are extremely sick and malnourished by admitting them for three months or more, while their family gets back on their feet; after this time, the baby is reunited with their biological family.
For children who have been orphaned or abandoned, COTP cares for them during their adoption process through foster care. These babies live in a family setting in one of the children homes at COTP, with international parents, insuring they learn a concept absolutely vital to the rest of their lives: healthy attachments.
Children desperately need healthy attachments.
Abandoned children often seek to attach to absolutely anyone or anything that might come their way. Without a caretaker, a baby is hopelessly left to cry and lay in their own mess, desperate for love.
They need to be provided for. They need to be fed. They need to be burped. They need to be wiped. They need to be changed. They need to be rocked. They need to be sung to, and disciplined and played with and loved on. They need a mommy, and they need a daddy. And they are desperate for it.
And we are just the same.
Without him, we seek to attach to anyone or anything that may- even for a fleeting moment- make us feel loved. We look to the next new thing- the next paycheck, the next buzz, the next high, the next relationship- to find purpose.
When he is not at the center of our life, we are just the same – hopelessly left to cry and lay in our own mess, desperate for love.
But we have hope.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:14-15
God is our provider. He gives us our daily bread. His blood has wiped away our sin. His grace has changed us, and made us new. He is our rock. We hear his voice, feel his discipline, bask in his joy and live by his love. He is our daddy- our Abba.
In ancient Rome, those who were adopted were given a new life. They were fully and legally co-heirs with their brothers and sisters. And they were given a new name. When my brother was adopted, he too was given a new name: Jonathan, meaning “a gift from God.” His story is a beautiful depiction of our spiritual adoption, shown in Galatians 4:6-7:“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
We were slaves, and now we are his children.
In John 14:18, Jesus promises “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” And He did. He adopted us.
And we are called to do the same for these precious children.
James 1:27 is not an option; it is a command.
Jesus demands that we care for the orphaned.
In Matthew 25:40 Christ declares, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Brothers and sisters, may we seek the Lord in prayer.
May we ask him to forgive us for our apathy, thank him for His sacrificial love, and boldly ask for a spirit that does the same.
May we join together in this good and eternally significant fight.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
Here we are, Lord.
-Jake Nagy, COTP volunteer (June 23-July 9)