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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--What does the adoption of children have to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the local church?
Everything, says Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Russell D. Moore.
Moore -- who together with his wife Maria adopted two sons from a Russian orphanage several years ago -- argues that the church should view the adoption of orphans as a crucial part of its mission precisely because God has adopted helpless sinners to be His sons. Moore serves as dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In his new book, "Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Children Families & Churches," Moore weaves together the personal story of the adoption of his two sons with the biblical teaching of God's adopting of His sons and daughters through Christ.
"Adoption tells the story of the universe, and it encompasses everything about what God has done for us in Christ. Some people misunderstand what the apostles mean when they speak of adoption," Moore said.
"We assume the Jewish Christians in the early church were the 'biological children' of God and the Gentile the 'adopted children' of God. No such distinction was made, since both received the adoption (Romans 9:4). Abraham, after all, wasn't a 'natural born' child of God. He was born in paganism, and brought into the household of God."
As Christians more clearly grasp the Gospel, Moore says, they will naturally grow more aware of the necessity of earthly adoption and will grow more missional because of the very nature of adoption.
"We were all orphans," he said. "Jesus became an orphan for us so that we might be brothers and sisters of Christ. Adoption is a Gospel issue … at the missional level.
"We care for orphans through adoption and foster care and mercy ministries not simply because it helps those who are hurting. We do so because the satanic powers hate babies, and Jesus loves them. Jesus pleads for the widows and the fatherless, and so we, if we share his Spirit, find ourselves doing the same, loving him by loving the least of his little brothers and sisters."
Messengers to this year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting passed a resolution encouraging every Southern Baptist family to pray about whether God wants them to adopt or provide foster care for a child or children. The resolution also called on Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches to devote a Sunday each year to emphasize "our adoption in Christ and our common burden for the orphans of the world." The resolution was submitted by Moore and was changed only slightly by the Resolutions Committee, the panel that formally presents resolutions to messengers.
In "Adopted for Life," Moore recounts the difficult lessons that God has taught him as he has reflected upon Scripture in light of his family's adoption of Timothy and Benjamin. One profound lesson Moore said God has taught him is that those who are united to Christ possess a family identity that transcends physical bloodlines. He argues that a Christian's true identity is not found in an earthly gene pool, but in Christ, a truth that should make adoption a priority for local congregations.
Moore tells his and his wife's personal struggle with infertility and their journey toward adoption, and he examines practical issues, such as: how to know if you should adopt, how much it might cost, how churches can encourage adoption, and how Christians must think about those who grow up adopted.
"The book took me longer to write than anything I've ever written. It's not because I had to spend so much time thinking and researching, it's just that it was so intense emotionally," Moore said.
"But every time I see my two little boys -- and remember the orphans they were -- I'm reminded of the number too great to be numbered of orphans languishing in the shadows right now. Writing the book then became, for me, an act of wrestling with demons, fighting for orphans."
Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.