One of the New Testament’s more powerful images, as it describes God’s concern for humanity, is, fittingly, adoption. The Apostle Paul is the champion of such language. “By his great love,” Paul said, “we were chosen for adoption into God’s family.”
In Paul’s day, the most common form of adoption originated in the workplace. Orphaned children, in ancient times, were often forced into slavery. For a predetermined number of years, the child would give himself or herself to a tradesman – brick masons, farmers, artisans, and other trades that involved hard manual labor.
The child’s hope was to make it to adulthood, and having learned a trade, he or she would then have a livable skill set. But sadly, the tradesmen would often wring the literal life from the child, and he or she would die from exhaustion or neglect, only to be replaced by another slave from the auction block.
Thankfully, not all tradesmen were traffickers. Some became mothers or fathers. A person could adopt a child-laborer. This released the child from slavery and granted to the adoptee all the rights and privileges of family. This was a revolution of status, a radical change in one’s identity. He or she was no longer an orphan, but became a son or daughter. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “God’s love should make it plain; you are not his slaves. You are his children.”
To recognize that you are loved and chosen by God might not squelch all of your anxieties or address all of your identity issues, but it is a good place to start. For if you know that God loves you, then you can make allowance for the things that you don’t know; if you understand that you belong to him, then you can live with those things that can’t be understood; and when you are certain of your acceptance, then you can accept all other uncertainties.
I pray that these facts will serve as a grounding force for my sons as they grow into the lives that will become theirs. And yes, I pray the same for all of us.