Adoption into the family of God

Sally Oakes's picture

On the introduction to the Dr. Phil show, there is a clip of him telling a guest, “This is going to be a changing day in your life.”

I started thinking about changing days recently, when I read this, “... 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 ...” (Romans 8:15b-16)

We have changing days in our lives. Some are the happiest days of our lives, like getting married or having a baby. Others are sad, like the day we lose a parent or spouse. Some mark a new phase of life, like a teenager getting a driver’s license or graduating from college. Some are tragic and leave physical or emotional scars. There will be days in our lives that change the course of our lives forever.

One of my changing days was Sept. 17, 1962. I was 7 months old and I went from living in a foster home to be with my family. My name was changed from Linda to Sally. As big of a changing day this was for my life, it seems ironic that I have no memory of it.

I didn’t come to my parents in the conventional way, but I’m their child just the same. I occasionally get a wicked pleasure out of telling people that my mother never had a baby and then watch their face as they try to figure that out.

Being adopted was normal to me, in my childish understanding. I thought, for example, that all babies came from phone calls because on Dec. 31, 1965, my mom was talking on the phone and, as she hung up, she exclaimed, “You’re getting a baby sister!” A few days later, we went to an office and picked up my sister.

Through the years, it was interesting fielding the questions. My sister and I, while both blond, do not look a thing alike. My mother, being part Cherokee, had black hair and people would look at the three of us and ask, “Where did all that blond hair come from?” None of us in the family look alike. We have different abilities and interests, too. But we are a family, sharing happy times, tears, and even arguments and reconciliations.

You have received a spirit of adoption. As Desmond Tutu once said, “God loves us. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we can do to make God love us less. Our adoption is forever. We are all God’s children.”

The changing day in our forever lives is the day we understand that we are adopted into God’s family. In the United Methodist baptismal service, the pastor asks the congregation, “Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?” And the congreation responds, “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness that they may grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.”

We are then baptized and welcomed as a brother or sister in Christ with these further words from the congregation: “ ... We are all one in Christ Jesus. With joy and thanksgiving we welcome you as members of the family of Christ.” In this way, we are adopted into Christ’s family and made heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

Once, when I was in high school, we were in a discussion at our lunch table and somehow the subject of adoption came up. I shared that I had been adopted and that my birth mother was a teenager and not married. One of my so-called friends said, “So, you’re ‘i-l-l,’”as a euphemism for illegitimate. I was surprised at the ignorance, but I also realize we’re all illegitimate until we call “Abba! Father!” and are adopted into the family of God as sisters and brothers.

We don’t look alike and we don’t always get along, but we have hope in Christ and assurance of our place in God’s family.

Sally Oakes is pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, 607 Rivers Road, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Phone: 770-964-6999 or 770-964-6992, or e-mail

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