“We have received … adoption as sons, by which we cry out ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15)
The Japanese have one of the highest adoption rates in the world. That would surprise some people. However, here’s the greater surprise. In 2011 over 90% of the 81,000 people adopted in Japan were adult males in their 20s and 30s. That’s right. Adult males in their 20s and 30s.
For centuries, the Japanese have adopted adult males into their families, often to strengthen and preserve the family resources. These adoptees consider it an enormous honor. They take the new family name, and work diligently to build the family business and protect the family interests. They accept adoption, knowing full well that it is not just great privilege but also great responsibility.
This closely reflects the practice of adoption in the ancient Greco-Roman world. It differs significantly from what most of us think of when we hear the word adoption. We imagine the rescue of helpless babies or young children.
Paul declares in Romans 8:15 that God has adopted us as sons and daughters. It includes a measure of rescue, to be sure. But it also speaks of a great privilege … with great responsibility.
And as we join God’s family, we cry out “Abba! Father!” This remarkable affirmation highlights at least two extraordinary changes in our lives.
First, we have the privilege of intimacy. We can address God as Father; a title reserved for family members only. Only my sons can call me Dad. The Spirit releases us to come into the Presence of God not as strangers but as beloved children. We no longer approach God as fearful subjects but as loving and trusting family members. Everything has changed.
Second, to call God our Father is also to affirm Him as our Deliverer. The first time in the Bible that God describes Himself as a father-figure is in Exodus 4:22-23. Moses says to Pharaoh (in Egypt):
Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My first-born. So, I said to you, ‘Let My son go, that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your first-born.”
When Israel thought of God as Father, their minds surely harkened back to this dramatic revelation. The Father came to set His children free from slavery! The parallels to our own lives are obvious.
Today, as we continue our Lenten fast, let’s ponder the privilege and responsibility of adoption; and the glorious reality of our liberty.