The majority of us do not understand what it means to be orphaned, experience homelessness, or be without the comforts of a family, but as believers we know something about the heart of an orphan because we were once orphaned as well. It's our story.
Adoption has been around for centuries as an integral part of many societies, but it has not always held the modern-day connotation of starry-eyed parents waiting and anticipating that sweet little life for months or even years. When Paul wrote to the early Roman church, he knew their paradigm, and in an effort to remind them of their identity in Christ, he shattered the current cultural perception of adoption to make way for something much bigger:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For 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 8:14-17).
The Romans would have understood Paul’s analogy of adoption because the practice was common in Rome. People of high class would often adopt to gain power. More often than not, Romans would adopt adults into their family simply to spread the expansion of their kingdoms. Adopted children would be given the same rights as the biologically-born children and be in line for a portion of the inheritance; however, these adoptions were fueled by a lust for power. Paul writes to the Romans and turns adoption on its head, saying we can cry, "Abba, Father." "Abba" was a warm, affectionate term for a father and the only relatively comparable term we have today is "daddy." It conveys a revolutionary kind of trust and closeness.
Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church Andy Stanley, in expanding on this analogy, said that sin trapped us in an orphanage where we could not be free. Jesus walked up to the door and knocked loudly until the door was finally answered. He sought us out and he adopted us. Regardless of what sin did to us before, when we came under the care of God, sin lost all authority. Sin treated us badly, but God offered us love. And when sin decides it’s going to drive the many miles or cross the ocean to come find us where we live under His care, it will knock on the door and God will remind it once more, "You have no authority over this child anymore."
We don’t love orphans merely because we’re commanded to do so. [tweet]We love orphans because their cry for a father echoes deeply in our own once-orphaned soul and our response is surprising, profound empathy.[/tweet] In the fibers of my being, I was the child who didn’t have a place to lay his head at night, didn’t know the comfort of a warm meal, and couldn’t fathom the love found in a mother’s arms. But, I was adopted. We were adopted. We were given a home. We’re going to keep on loving, keep on striving, and keep on dreaming until every single one of the 153 million orphans in the world has a home.