Scripture Reflection: To Be Adopted and To Adopt
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This willingness of parents to sacrifice everything for their children is, of course, found par excellence in the Heavenly Father. Yet Scripture -- and Paul's writings particularly -- shows that love as expressed through the death of the Son is described as an act of adoption. When "the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead" dwells in us, we "have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: 'Abba'" (Rom 8:11-15).
WASHINGTON, DC (Inside Catholic) - When I was a young man, I always assumed parents loved their adopted children less, or at least differently, than those who genetically shared their flesh and blood. When I thought of myself as a father, it never occurred to me that I might one day love my adopted son as much as my biological daughter. Even more, I never imagined it would be through the experience of raising an adopted child that I would finally understand the significance of what is meant when Scripture speaks of our being "adopted" sons and daughters of God. When I read what St. Paul writes in Romans 8:1-17 -- that, as adopted children, we walk "not according to the flesh but according to the spirit" -- I recall my youthful assumption that the strongest bonds of love are those connected by natural bloodlines. This was indeed an example of the "wisdom of the flesh" corrected in time by life and experience, but especially by the discovery of a love I didn't have until my adopted son's presence brought it to the surface. Parents will often say they would sacrifice everything for their children, and I have observed this is often (but not always) the case. Many parents don't experience this sacrifice as a conscious struggle; they just do it because they feel compelled to take care of their children, regardless of the cost. This willingness of parents to sacrifice everything for their children is, of course, found par excellence in the Heavenly Father. Yet Scripture -- and Paul's writings particularly -- shows that love as expressed through the death of the Son is described as an act of adoption. When "the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead" dwells in us, we "have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: 'Abba'" (Rom 8:11-15). I said such sacrificial love is found in God. But this is not to imply such love is easily comprehensible -- for to imagine such a love, I would have to love every human being with the same passionate immediacy and willingness to sacrifice as I have for my own children. That, I must confess, is beyond me. Yet we can get a glimpse of such a love in our own human loves, such as those of friendship, marriage, and love for our children -- even those we simply choose to love for no reason other than they exist. I was surprised -- as I still am -- that my heart was big enough to encompass a child who "was not my own." That recognition should make it easier for me to understand and accept the Heavenly Father who has adopted me, whose love for all of us became not just a sacrifice but a redemption. As human creatures, we necessarily think about God by analogy, the comparison of human things to the divine. The comparison I have drawn, however, between my experience of adoptive love and that of Christ's sacrifice -- His adoption of us -- only makes that act less comprehensible and more wondrous. As Paul himself concludes in his letter to the Romans, we cannot reason our way to understanding this level of the mystery; we have to rely on a different means of knowing: "For the Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8:16). Perhaps the analogy we should be following is not so much a didactic one but an analogy of experience, starting from what we know when we, as parents, gaze upon our children and realize the price we are willing to pay for them. ----- Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).
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