“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” – Galatians 4:4-6
Every once in a while, some well-meaning person of goodwill will refer to my son’s birth parents as his “real” parents. They almost always catch themselves with a hand over their mouths as soon as the word passes their lips, and apologize. Nevertheless, you can imagine how I feel about the implications of the statement.
And yet, of course I can see how people’s minds are working. In our world and families, so much depends on biological connection. Crowds used to watch queens give birth, to make certain the baby wasn’t switched and therefore had the necessary royal blood. Trashy daytime talk shows make a mint on those paternity test shows . . . as do high-end retailers, who sell genetics kits that promise to tell you exactly where in the world your ancestors are all from (spoiler alert: it’s not where your grandmother claimed).
People act like there’s something mystical about the blood that parents and children share. Perhaps there is, but the clear witness of the Bible is this: for God, adoption matters more than blood. And I’m not just talking about Moses, Esther, Jesus, and the other important biblical adoptees. I’m talking about something larger, which Paul says here in Galatians: whatever family, race, or religion we inherited by blood, our real Parent isn’t finally the one to whom we’re genetically related, but the one who adopts us and makes us heirs to the greatest of estates.
This doesn’t mean you have to leave your bio-family behind, of course; God’s fine with open adoptions and you can totally still be in touch. It just means that in what happened with Jesus, “real” got redefined.
O holy one, thank you for all good parents, especially the real ones.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.