“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”- Galatians 4:4-6
Adoption is a legal contract in which a child not born of DNA becomes as real as one who is. Unfortunately, the Christian church mostly sees adoption in the same way as Islam does.
Those of us engaged in the pro-life movement can recite some of the core scriptures we use in advocating adoption. In particular are these (All scriptures cited in this blog are ESV):
- “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” –James 1:27
- “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” –Malachi 4:5-6
While these verses may seem overused, they also are foundational for orphan and family ministries. I’ll come back to these in a minute. But let me shift to the religious differences between Islam and Christianity. I doubt I have to lay out much of an argument showing how these top two world religions are so different. “Of course they are different!” most Christians would exclaim. “Jesus is the truth and Islam is a lie.” The chorus from Christians sounds something like that; however, sans the remnant who is adopting and working to expand this area in the church, much of the church lives with an Islamic ideology when it comes to family.
Bear with me as I take us all back to the very basics of the Gospel. Again, these are phrases and verses we hear so often, we often take them for granted. Few would disagree that the single verse that encompasses the gospel is John 3:16:
- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
That core verse that is the essence of our salvation is only part of God’s family story. To understand the entire gospel is to understand adoption, for it was in Jesus that we were allowed to be “grafted in” (See Romans chapter 11 for an in-depth explanation of this reality). Familiar refrains of scripture remind us of the truth of the gospel as it related to adoption, as well:
- When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)
- You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:15-17)
- He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
These verses are only a few of myriad examples of the reality that the gospel has adoption at its very core. Without adoption, every Gentile would be without access to the Father. When Jesus died, He made a way for all Gentiles to become sons and daughters. A legitimate, real, legal son or daughter. Perhaps no piece of writing about adoption has impacted me as much as John Piper’s essay, “Adoption: The Heart of the Gospel”—please lay aside any opinions you have of the man or his doctrinal beliefs about other things because his teaching on adoption is 100% biblical. If you only want to skim, please focus your attention on these two of the eight points he makes:
- Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child.
- Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father.
I return you to James 1:27 and Malachi 4:5-6 now, where I began. The Bible implores us to care for orphans (and widows, but that’s a point for another post). The Bible is clear that God is going to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of their children to their fathers. The Bible is also clear that without these things happening, we’re in trouble—whether it be “stained by the world” or worse, having the earth stuck with a “decree of destruction” (some translations say “curse,”) these are not multiple choice questions for God the Father.
To care for the orphan, to care for the fatherless, we must give them status as a son or daughter. If they cannot be reconciled to their families and are able to be adopted, to do anything less is to shortchange them.
Will with his mom and dad, Heather and Scotty
Heather and her son, Will
Family is our core. Even if we had a rotten family experience, it’s still our core. Our identity was forged in family—or from lack of it. If we had a healthy and godly family experience, it probably shaped our view of God in a positive way. Seeing God as Father was a natural extension. Sadly, that’s not the reality for many in modern times, but that’s why there are so many inner healing ministries focus on mother and father issues. We were destined to be in family. God’s plan was family, on earth as it is in heaven.
Adoption is truly a legal contract. There’s no way around it. When a child is adopted, he or she becomes as much of an heir as the children birthed who share DNA. There is absolutely no distinction in the law, or in the hearts of adoptive parents; all their children are their children. For parents, bringing children into their family, their “labor” included home studies and legal paperwork; for others, it was 32 hours of labor with or without an epidural. But there was still labor, as Piper posits.
For the church to understand the gospel we must understand adoption. This is not a side ministry for a few committed pro-life Christians. This is the core of being a Christian. While every single member of the body of Christ is not called to personally adopt, every single one is called to be a part of adoption in one way or another; adoption is the very heart of Christianity. For some, it’s financial, supporting a family as they, on a moderate income, navigate the legal costs involved in adoption. Some provide nannying, babysitting, or respite care to adoptive families. Whether it is serving an adopted family or becoming one who adopts, real Christianity has no out clause on the adoption question. Adoption is the central theme of the gospel. Further, James makes it clear that “faith without works is dead.” Thus, to understand the gospel core and not act on it is an indictment of our faith.
Now let’s shift gears to the opposite of Christianity: Islam. We know some basic differences. We’ve certainly heard the scare tactics preached about Islam. We tell stories of bombs and destruction, neglecting to acknowledge the many Muslims who actually do live in peace—at least socially speaking, for Islam is antithetical to Christianity. This is evident in multitudinous ways, but none is as obvious as Islam’s views on family and adoption.
I have shared with many about my own adoption from the Middle East. I was born in Bethlehem to an unwed mother. In that society a woman is not allowed to keep her child, even if she desires to do so. It is a scandalous shame to the culture. If the family is Christian, women will often be allowed to birth their child and place the child in an orphanage. In Islam, the woman can be killed to “avenge the family honor.” In fact, Jordan only recently banned honor killings. It is an astounding fact to us here in the United States, but it’s reality in Palestine, Jordan, and surrounding regions. Whether it’s legal or not, honor killings still occur today, but usually if the baby lives, he or she is given over to an orphanage. And it’s what happens then that feels so hopeless.
The sad truth is that, under current laws in Palestinian areas, a child is destined to forever be illegitimate. Up until a few years ago, some of those children could be adopted, but an immigration law a few years ago changed that. This law means certain paperwork must be generated for the child to be adopted, and some of that paperwork deems the child Muslim. And there is no adoption in Islam. This was the horrible reality I faced when I began searching for answers about my own adoption, that led me to go back and fight for the right for those orphans to be adopted—despite Islamic law.
But if there’s no adoption, why are there Muslim “adoption” agencies? You have to read the fine print to understand why these agencies call themselves “adoption” agencies. For the sake of making a point here, I’m going to provide information from one of these places, New Star Kafala, which calls itself “A Muslim Adoption And Child Advocacy Agency.” However, a closer look at the fine print explains what “adoption” means in Islam. The link to the explanations is here. I encourage you to read it further, as it’s impractical to quote it all here, but it’s all worth reading and understanding. Here’s the summary, directly quoted from the aforementioned link, though I have added bolded emphasis to highlight some aspects:
“According to the Sharee’ah (Islamic law), there is no legal adoption. It is prohibited for a person to legally adopt a son or a daughter of whom he is not the biological father… According to the Quran, one cannot become a person’s real son merely by virtue of a declaration; Allah Says (what means): “…And He [i.e., Allah] has not made your claimed [i.e., adopted] sons your [true] sons. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the [right] way. Call them [i.e., the adopted children] by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they are your brothers in religion…” [Quran 33: 4-5]
“…[A] figure of speech cannot make the blood of a man run through the veins of the adopted child, produce natural feelings of affection found in normal parent-child relationships, or transfer the genetic characteristics, or physical, mental, or psychological traits. Islam views adoption as a falsification of the natural order of society and reality. The prohibition of legal adoption in Islam was ordained to protect the rights of the adopted, adopter, biological parents, other individuals affected by the adoption, and society as a whole.
“The child is an extension of his father and the bearer of his characteristics. He takes his name and increases his progeny. Likewise, the child in Islam also has the equally inalienable right to legitimacy. The principle of legitimacy holds that every child shall have a father and one father only…. adoption cannot be used in Islam to hide the illegitimacy or the paternity of the child.
“By adopting someone’s child as one’s own, the rightful and deserving heirs to the property of a man are deprived of their shares. Hence, Islam has made it Haraam (forbidden) for a father to deprive his natural children of inheritance. Allah has established the distribution of inheritance in order to give each eligible person his or her share. In matters of inheritance, the Quran does not recognise any claim except those based on relationship through blood and marriage. The Quran stipulates (what means): “…But those of [blood] relationship are more entitled [to inheritance] in the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah is knowing of all things.” [Quran 8:75]
“If the adopted child were to receive a claim on the inheritance of the adopter, the real relatives may become rightfully angry feeling that the adopted child has received something that is not rightfully his, depriving them of their full inheritance. This could lead to quarrels, fights and the breaking of relations among relatives. Therefore, adoption is not conducive to family solidarity and overall harmony and peace, which are necessary for social stability.”
The post goes on to explain “Allowable Forms of ‘Adoption’ in Islam,” including “orphans” and “foundlings”:
“[Orphan adoption] is a completely different form of adoption, which is not prohibited by Islam – that is, when a man brings home an orphan and wants to raise, educate, and treat him as his own child. In this case, he protects, feeds, clothes, teaches, and loves the child as his own without attributing the child to himself, nor does he give him or her the rights which the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law) reserves for his natural children.
“A foundling or abandoned child is also regarded as an orphan, and one may apply the term ‘wayfarer’ to him as well. In this case too, as in that of orphans, the child’s lineal identity must be unchanged and parenthood to the natural parents should not be denied.
“If a man is childless and wishes to benefit such a child (orphan or foundling) from his wealth, he may give him whatever he wants during his lifetime.”
What this all means should cause a startling awakening for the church. In Islam, adoption is a violation of the law of Allah, and the only real and legitimate families are those born from the parents’ DNA. Blood family is the only “real” family in Islam. While Allah considers it a noble act to take in an orphan and raise him or her, there is a limit. That limit means the orphan is always second best to the natural born child. What a horrible burden to put on the adopted child, to walk his whole life, knowing he can never be a real son, knowing he is second best, an impure reflection of family. It is the opposite of real adoption, and the opposite of what God the Father ordained through Jesus. We are not second best because we are Gentiles. We were given access to the best, without restrictions or limitations. It cost God everything, but our adoption was worth everything to Him. Islam says the opposite.
We are quick to acknowledge that Islam is the opposite of Christianity, but much of the church lives with the Islamic paradigm about family. “Us four and no more,” “My blood is my family,” “I mean, I’d love to adopt but I can’t do that to my children…,” “I just don’t think I could love someone else’s child as my own the same way,” “It’s just different when it’s your own child,” “It would mess up our family dynamic to adopt an orphan, especially one who is older,” “I might consider it if I can’t get pregnant and all the fertility treatments don’t work, but that’s the only way I would” (second best). The list goes on. Many believers shudder at having an outsider over for a family gathering or holiday, let alone bringing that non-blood person into the family legally. They are afraid, they tell me, of how their birth children would feel if, for example, someone outside the family were invited to spend Christmas with them. These are phrases and ideas (excuses) I have actually heard people say over the years. While those comments have always grieved me to some degree, the impact of those phrases, those reflections of Christians’ very hearts, took on new meaning when I discovered what the Quran said about adoption.
We claim to be radical Christians. We will obey God, even when the world doesn’t, we boldly proclaim. We are not like “those Muslims.”
Except we are.
Every time we have a similar attitude about adoption—legal, authentic, heir-granting, costly adoption—every single time, we are channeling the spirit of the antichrist. We eschew movies with magic and demons, we homeschool to avoid the “evils” of public school, we have “trunk or treat” to avoid Halloween—but we live with the spirit of the antichrist in our own hearts with the way we view family and who can be legitimate.
Tim and Janette with their daughters, Hannah and Bekah
God the Father gave His only son for the sake of adoption. This is not a feel-good memory verse we got a sticker for reciting in the second grade: this is reality. God, the creator of everything that exists, the One with all power, that same God gave His only son, His heir, His DNA, to allow us to be legally adopted into His family. Jesus was the legal contract—sealed with blood, written in the Word. Adoption is not merely a human declaration; it’s not a feeling. It is a legal contract, sealed in court records, stretching the family, creating heirs to the name, giving new identity to the adopted child.
The question we must ask ourselves, the question we must honestly answer before the Lord, is this: How can we truly love Him and not have a heart for adoption? We cannot reject what God has not only ordained, but given His son’s life to do for us. Jesus died to redeem us from the law that left us as orphans. This isn’t just a Bible story. It is reality.
When we reject adoption, when we call it second best, when we say “you’re just like family,” but we won’t pay the price to “make it real” if that person needs a family, when we refuse to give an orphan a birthright, we are reflecting Islam and the spirit of the antichrist.
Many of my friends are pioneers in the adoption revolution, which is small but mighty; there are two phrases I’ve often heard them say, which have never made more sense to me as they did upon discovering what Islam teaches about adoption and family.
- Adoption is spiritual warfare.
- The greatest evangelizing I do is through adoption.
Several years ago many teachers and preachers seemed to land on warning the church about the rise of Islam as it related to the growth of Christianity worldwide. We’re not talking “First Assembly of God in Anytown, USA” church growth, but the growth of Christianity worldwide versus the growth of Islam worldwide. Repeatedly, Islam was deemed the fastest growing religion, and the reason for that is related to family demographics: “Muslims have more children than members of the seven other major religious groups” and “In all major regions where there is a sizable Muslim population, Muslim fertility exceeds non-Muslim fertility.” Thus, to battle the rise of Islam and its ideology, while ignoring adoption as a key in the process, we miss a key weapon of our warfare and reduce our evangelistic reach. If the heart of Christianity beats because of adoption, and the heart of Islam is opposed to it, what a force of spiritual warfare it is to be a key player in the adoption movement.
You know what happens to the kids in the orphanage where I was? They age out of there after a few years and go to children’s homes. Most of those homes are Islamic homes since the church is the ruling body in Palestine, where there is no national government. Therefore, they are set on a path to be Muslim orphans. Forever. And we, ourselves, were set on a path to be Gentile orphans forever. But God said otherwise. And He did otherwise when He gave His only son, his DNA, His seed, and let Him die so we could be reconciled to Him and no longer be orphans. We’ve heard that truth all of our Christian lives, yet I suspect we don’t really understand it. If we did, there wouldn’t be an orphan eligible for adoption. In the United States alone, about 100,000 orphans are eligible to be adopted just from foster care (and, sadly, adoptions in the United States are declining); worldwide, there are an estimated 140 million orphans. When we refuse to give a child a birthright and share our family, we proclaim the mindset of Allah, rather than that of God the Father.
Spiritual warfare and life-changing evangelism starts right in our homes and hearts. Adoption is not only for a select few who are called to it; we are all called to be a major player in adoption if we are children of God.
Jonathan and Lisa with their daughter, Piper Rose
As Christians, we have a responsibility to be an active player in adoption, and, above all, we must support adoption boldly and vocally. We must eschew the ideologies of Islam, which is the spirit of the antichrist, and we must proclaim the truth of Christianity and the reality of adoption through Jesus Christ.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Selected Resources (feel free to add your own in the comments)