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, the heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ … (Romans 8:15-17).
Callings come in (at least) two ways. Sometimes the Lord makes His will known by calling a person or a community to do something specific. For instance, despite his protestations, the Lord called Jeremiah to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:5). At other times, callings are the simple outworking of the Lord’s commands to his people concerning the kind of people they are to be. The Lord called the nation to “defend the fatherless and plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Why? Because this is what the Lord does (e.g., Psalm 68:5). As the Lord does, so do His people. This is the foundation of calling.
Which brings us to adoption. The verses cited above are full of gospel hope and promise. In Christ, God adopts us as His children, assures us we are His, and grants us an inheritance, alongside Christ. This is who God is, and this is how He responds to a world full of orphans. Therefore this is who we are to be as well.
God adopts children, and therefore so do his people. In other words, adoption is not an unusual or a special calling, but rather a normal calling for God’s people. If this is the case, then perhaps discerning the call to adopt does not begin with the question, “Is God calling us to adopt?” but rather “Is God calling us not to adopt?” After all, if adoption is what God does, perhaps the unusual calling, at least among those who are able, is not to adopt.
What if the church became known for adopting those who are “unplanned” and “unwanted”? What if every crisis pregnancy center had a list of people who had agreed, beforehand, to adopt any baby whose mother walked into the center, so that a confused teen or a struggling mother of other children could look at adoption practically instead of theoretically? What if the church adopted so eagerly and regularly that the word adoption would seem far more normal (and therefore less strange and perhaps less scary) than it does now to the ears of most women in crisis pregnancy?
The mark of the church is love, costly love that works itself out practically in bearing one another’s burdens. A church that speaks with integrity in matters of life is a church deeply invested in adoption. How important to us really are the lives of unborn children (who will become infants requiring diapers, then youngsters requiring carpools, then teenagers requiring listening, and a college education, then…)? We will know by adoption.
In the end, discerning calling is a question of willingness. Of course we need to pray, to seek God’s face. But there is much we already know. Do we understand that we are not our own, but have been bought at a price? Do we know that our worship depends upon our availability and the transformation of our thinking? In closing, hear Paul’s words concerning discernment, a bit further along in Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).
This piece originally ran July 17, 2017