Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Callings come in (at least) two ways. Sometimes the Lord calls a person or a community to something specific and makes his will known specifically. For instance, despite his protestations, the Lord called Jeremiah to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1). Sometimes callings are the simple outworking of the Lord’s commands to his people concerning the kind of people they are to be. For instance, 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. This week’s NT lesson cited above is full of gospel hope and promise. In Christ, God adopts us as His children, assures us we are His, and grants us an inheritance, that 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 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 was known for adopting those who are “unplanned” and “unwanted”? (Unplanned and unwanted by whom?) What if every crisis pregnancy center had a list of people who have agreed, beforehand, to adopt any baby whose mother walks into the center, so that a confused teen or a struggling mother of other children can look at adoption practically instead of theoretically? What if the Church adopted so eagerly and regularly that adoption seemed far more normal (and therefore less strange and perhaps less scary) than it does now in 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 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 with 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).
Just as God adopted us as His children, open our hearts to the need to provide love and shelter to children both near and far who need a family. May the Church be known not only for how much it celebrates Life but embraces life through action and through adoption.
This week’s reflection has been written by Anglicans for Life’s Board Member, the Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn. Rev. Blackburn is the Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Fellowship in Boone, NC.