The transformation of these two ex-orphans into the sons I saw behind the pulpit that day and see every day of my life running through my house with Lego toys and construction paper drawings motivates me to write this book. The thought that there are thousands more like them in orphanages in Russia, in government facilities in China, and in foster care systems in the United States haunts me enough to sit at this computer and type. 

I don’t know who you are, reading this book. Maybe you’re standing in a bookstore, flipping past these pages. Maybe you’re reading this book a few minutes at a time, keeping it in a drawer so your spouse won’t see it. Maybe you never thought you’d read a book about adoption. Maybe you’re wondering if you should.  

Well, okay. I never thought I’d write a book about adoption, as you’ll see soon enough. Like I said, I don’t know who you are. But I know that I am writing this to you. I invite you to spend the next little bit thinking with me about a subject that has everything to do with you, whoever you are. 

Whenever I told people I was working on a book on adoption, they’d often say something along the lines of, “Great. So, is the book about the doctrine of adoption or, you know, real adoption?” That’s a hard question to answer because you can’t talk about the one without talking about the other. Also, it is not as though we master one aspect and then move to the other—from the vertical to the horizontal or the other way around. That’s not the picture God has embedded in his creation work.  

The Bible tells us that human families are reflective of an eternal fatherhood (Eph. 3:14–15). We know, then, what human fatherhood ought to look like on the basis of how our Father God behaves toward us. But the reverse is also true. We see something of the way our God is fatherly toward us through our relationships with human fathers. And so Jesus tells us that in our human father’s provision and discipline we get a glimpse of God’s active love for us (Matt. 7:9–11; cf. Heb. 12:5–17). The same truth is at work in adoption.  

Adoption is, on the one hand, gospel. In this, adoption tells us who we are as children of the Father. Adoption as gospel tells us about our identity, our inheritance, and our mission as sons of God. Adoption is also defined as mission. In this, adoption tells us our purpose in this age as the people of Christ. Missional adoption spurs us to join Christ in advocating for the helpless and the abandoned.  

As soon as you peer into the truth of the one aspect, you fall headlong into the truth of the other, and vice versa. That’s because it’s the way the gospel is. Jesus reconciles us to God and to each other. As we love our God, we love our neighbor; as we love our neighbor, we love our God. We believe Jesus in heavenly things—our adoption in Christ; so we follow him in earthly things—the adoption of children. Without the theological aspect, the emphasis on adoption too easily is seen as mere charity. Without the missional aspect, the doctrine of adoption too easily is seen as mere metaphor. 

But adoption is contested, both in its cosmic and missional aspects. The Scriptures tell us there are unseen beings in the air around us who would rather we not think about what it means to be who we are in Christ. These rulers of this age would rather we ignore both the eternal reality and the earthly icon of it. They would rather we find our identity, our inheritance, and our mission according to what we can see and verify as ours—according to what the Bible calls “the flesh”—rather than according to the veiled rhythms of the Spirit of life. That’s why adoption isn’t charity—it’s war. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world. As we become more attuned to the gospel, we’ll have more of a burden for orphans. As we become more adoption-friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel. This book calls us to look forward to an adoptive-missional church. In this book I want to call us all to consider how encouraging adoption—whether we adopt or whether we help others adopt—can help us peer into the ancient mystery of our faith in Christ and can help us restore the fracturing unity and the atrophied mission of our congregations.