Over the past few days, conversation has reached a fever pitch in the adoption community over what some are heralding as the beginning of the end of Intercountry Adoption in the United States. World Magazine, Baptist Press, and The Federalist have all carried articles that quote Adoption Service Providers (ASPs) and adoption advocates projecting the posture of the U.S. Department of State and the newly formed Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME). The substance of these articles is consistent. They assert that U.S. government implementation and oversight of the International treaty governing international adoption will bring a swift and total end to international adoptions into the U.S.
Could this be true? Possibly. Should we do something? Certainly. The question is not “if” we should act, but rather “what” we should do. As followers of Jesus, we must respond in ways that are consistent with our King and His Kingdom. Here are a few thoughts I have on a distinctively Christian response to the current state of affairs.
A Christian’s Response to Changes in Intercountry Adoption
First, I believe that we would be well advised to take a deep breath and to not fall prey to hysteria. In times of great stress and confusion, we must remember both who we are and whose we are. No matter the political climate nor the confusion circling around International adoption, God has not abandoned His Throne nor has His Sovereignty diminished. Social media may be filled with doomsday predictions about the future of International adoption, but God is not shaken, and He will make a way to care for orphaned and vulnerable children because He is the Father to the Fatherless who has called us to join him in this work. Jesus commands us to trust Him and not to worry. It is tempting to be like Peter and focus on the size of the storm raging around us, but Jesus tells us that our worry and fear are misplaced. Our role is to press into the call to seek Christ and His Kingdom, and God will accomplish His purposes (Mathew 6:25-34).
The writer of Proverbs declares that, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). In other words, God directs the paths of governments according to His plan. As Christians, we have assurance that God, in His sovereignty, stands over the Department of State and the Hague Convention just as He reigns over us. His purposes will not be thwarted. We must pray and work hard for the good of vulnerable children because we are Christ’s ambassadors to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20). I believe this means both praying and advocating for healthy governmental policy, but we must do so in a way that reflects and honors our King.
Defaming others can be a major temptation in a struggle. In our flesh, we want someone to blame or a villain to be at fault. We must not succumb to the temptation to demonize others who may disagree with us. We have to respond differently to conflicts because we are the adopted children of God. Paul declared that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Those with opposing viewpoints or even those with evil intent are not our enemy, and we can never stoop to treat them as such. To be sure, we are in a war, but our war is fought on a spiritual battlefield against Satan himself and not other people, and we can trust that Jesus has already secured our victory.
God’s Desire to Defend the Fatherless
The question of how we respond in this crisis is one of worldview. We must recognize that God’s agenda to protect and provide for vulnerable children is much greater than ourselves, and God’s purpose is even greater than our methods for helping to accomplish it (even adoption). God loves these precious children much more than we could ever conceptualize, and He will prevail in the effort to “bring the lonely into families” no matter what.
Second, we must speak up the way King Lemuel’s mother tells him to in Proverbs 31. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). We must speak prophetically to call the world (including our government) to care for orphaned and vulnerable children because our defense of them puts the redemptive character of God on display. We must act on their behalf because God has acted on our behalf in Christ and His gospel. We must not be silent because the lives and eternities of children hang in the balance, but we must speak in a way that honors God.
Above all, our response to this issue must be aligned with the Heart of God. Jesus calls us to a way of response to conflict and strife that is neither comfortable nor intuitive. Jesus said, “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles…. love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:40-41; 44). In fact, Jesus takes it a few steps further. “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). For the record, I don’t see the State Department as an enemy just because we may have substantial disagreements. Jesus’ point remains. We are to meet difficulty with prayer and service not contention and sharp rhetoric no matter how impassioned we may be about the disagreement.
Reflecting Christ Amidst Adversity
So, how can we better reflect Christ in this difficult discussion? Here are a few questions to ask for accountability in the midst of the struggle:
- Are my responses characterized by the gospel?
- Is love reflected predominantly in how I am treating others who disagree with me on how to address the orphan crisis through adoption?
- Are those with whom I disagree drawn to know Christ as a result of my handling of this issue?
Finally, we must pray. We are called to respond in a way that is decidedly countercultural and counterintuitive. We are to meet offense with love and maltreatment with prayer. We are to go out of our way to extend grace to those who hurt us. Why? Because we acknowledge that Jesus is enough. We pray because we have been forgiven, and we acknowledge that our King is sovereign. We respond this way because we are citizens of another Kingdom who testify to the supremacy of Jesus in our lives and over His world.
We must resist the urge to ply the tools of politics or personal attack in how we respond to the State Department even when we vehemently disagree with their policies. God wants us to turn to Him when we face opposition or attack. We have the promise that what Satan means for evil in the lives of children and families, God can and will use for good. Let’s be persistent in both working to see lonely children placed in families through International adoption and to leverage every opportunity including this one to show the world Jesus in all of His glory.
About the Author: Rick Morton is the Vice President of Engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has served local churches in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Notably, Rick is the co-author of the popular book Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-centered Adoption and Orphan Care and the author of the recently released KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology. Rick and his lovely wife Denise have been married for over 20 years, and they have 3 children, all of whom joined their family through international adoption.