by Rev. Joel Fritsche
My older brother always refers to me as the “chosen one.” He and my two other older siblings were adopted before I came into the picture. I was my mother’s case of “the flu” four years after their third and last adoption. Hmm. If I was the “chosen one” simply because I was the biological child of my parents and the baby, why are there fewer baby pictures of me? In fact, I would argue the opposite of my dear brother. I am not the chosen one. By virtue of their adoptions, they are the chosen ones. And I’m fine with that.
My parents made sacrifices for all four of their children, whom they love equally, by the way. Parenting, like other vocations, involves the giving of oneself for another. Adoption absolutely includes sacrifice. Birth parents make sacrifices when giving up a child for adoption, despite the different circumstances of each child’s birth. Adoptive parents make huge sacrifices, especially with all of the legal and financial challenges that adoption can bring nowadays.
I may not be adopted, but I am an adoptive father. In 2008, my wife, Clarion, and I adopted two boys: biological siblings from Russia, ages 3 and 5. We’re currently adopting their younger biological brother, age 2. I can’t begin to tell you what we’ve been through to bring these boys home—into our family. There are mountains of paperwork, done and re-done, notarized and processed, mailed to our agency and then “FedExed” to far eastern Russia. There are huge checks to write and mounds of cash to stuff in my luggage and other places I won’t mention. We have been poked and prodded, given blood, been fingerprinted more times than a convict and our backgrounds thoroughly checked. Why? We desire to have children!
The Lord also desires to have children. In fact, when He breathed life into man, He created human beings in His image just as children are images of their parents. Even after the fall, out of pure grace, He redeemed us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The analogy of adoption is part of Holy Scripture’s treasure trove of redemption language. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV). It isn’t something God did on a whim. He deliberately chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5), to be His holy people. The price was hefty: the precious blood, the innocent suffering and death of His perfect, only-begotten Son. Adoption is all about sacrifice and it’s all about grace! We don’t even have to do the choosing. God chooses us!
My wife and I retell our family story again and again to my sons. We look at the pictures and videos from our trips to Russia. We talk about where they came from, their orphanages and what little we know of their birth mother. They have the privilege to watch as we bring home their brother, to witness for themselves the sacrifice and to rejoice in what they’ve been given by grace. Their orphanages were not horrible places. The children are loved and cared for by some wonderful people. We took great comfort in that when we had to say goodbye and go home without them in order to wait for our court date. The survival rate of Russian orphans once released from the orphanage is terribly low. Many turn to drugs, prostitution, crime and die young and alone. Kyrie eleison!
What a gift to be chosen—adopted! Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Through our adoption into Christ, God has given us a new birth “from above” by water and the Spirit (John 3:3, 5). The devil, the world and our sinful flesh tempt us to crave our former, sinful way of life. Fear not, dear child of God. 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!” (Romans 8:15). We daily rejoice in our adoption as we return to our baptism through the Holy Spirit’s work of contrition and repentance. Daily “we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Our Lord will come to us, just as He promised!
So the reality is that my adopted siblings may truly be the “chosen ones” in my family. After all, I wasn’t adopted by my parents. They were stuck with me and still are! However, in Christ, I am adopted. I’m more than fine with that!
Rev. Joel Fritsche is an adopted child of God, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Staunton, Illinois, and a member of the board of directors of Higher Things.