Dick and Linda are old friends of mine and the parents of four children. Two of those children are biological while the other two were adopted. Today they are all relatively happy, healthy, and
well-balanced adults, but this hasn’t always been the case.
Before their two adopted kids came into Dick and Linda’s home, they had bounced from one foster home to another. No one seemed to really want them, so by the time Dick and Linda adopted them, they were insecure, and feeling unloved and unwanted! They seemed sure that Dick and Linda’s home would be like all the others they had been in. It would only be a matter of time before they would be asked to leave.
Dick and Linda tell stories of how these kids seemed to do everything in their power to “act out” and prove they were unlovable. It certainly seemed they were “testing” these parents to see if their love and acceptance was genuine and real. These were some very difficult years for this family, but Dick and Linda hung in there with them through all their insecurities, misbehaving, and minor brushes with the law.
So to assure these adopted kids this was their permanent home, Dick and Linda did a beautiful thing. Regularly, they would take these children, one by one, sit them down on their laps, look them in the eyes, and assure them, “though there was a time you were not our son, you were not our daughter, there will never be a time like that again! We chose you, we love you, we want you here, and this is your home! You are our son, you are our daughter, and nothing can ever change that!”
It’s a funny thing: if you repeat these words long enough and loud enough to a child, they just might begin to believe them!
And fortunately, these kids did come to believe them! It didn’t happen overnight, but little by little, they eased their insecurities, anxieties, and fears. These simple and true words changed their attitudes, their actions, and their lives, all because of the unconditional love and acceptance this amazing couple offered them.
Adopted by God
I share this story because, in so many ways, this is the story of baptism. As we are washed in the water and embraced by the Holy Spirit, God speaks the same sort of words to us as God’s adopted daughters and sons: “Though there was a time you were not my daughter, you were not my son… There will never be a time like that again! I made you, I love you, I chose you, and you are a part of my family! Now you are my son, you are my daughter, and nothing you can do will ever change that!”
In Ephesians 2:19, God reminds us; “You are no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (J.B. Phillips paraphrase). This baptismal promise of God’s unconditional love and acceptance is meant to change us, to take away our insecurities and ease our anxieties and fears. It’s meant to change our attitudes and actions, and to give us courage and confidence as we live as God’s adopted sons and daughters.
There’s and old hymn of the church that suggests, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” But I think the author of the hymn had it wrong! Jesus doesn’t belong to us; through our baptism we belong to Jesus!
This is not only the GOOD news, but the GREAT news of the gospel. As we hear it again and again, may it continue to change us and shape the way that we live.