Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Kinds of Love

Raising children both adopted and born to us gives our family plenty of opportunities to answer various adoption related questions. One common question relates to the nature or quality of our love toward our children: do we [or can we] love all of our children the same?

The surprising answer is no! However, what 'no' means may not be as offensive as it first sounds.

Just as marriage ought to help us better understand the deep theology of Christ's love and devotion to his bride, the Church, human adoption should grow our understanding of the Doctrine of Adoption. See Galatians 4:1-7, Romans 8:18-25, and Ephesians 1:3-14 if this doctrine is foreign to you.

Imagine God's love toward Adam and Eve after he created them. Adam was a son of God (Luke 3:38), and God showed him paternal love in the garden. Besides providing for Adam's needs, God also set the balance in freedom, responsibility and boundaries. Most importantly, God walked with Adam. The picture is one of tender care as the father sets life's tenor for his child. Parenting children born to a husband and wife feels this natural, and love pours out to the one made in your image.

However, this relationship didn't remain. Adam and Eve fell and lost their status as children of God. The point of showing this isn't to use that as part of any analogy, but rather to get to redemption. Because the fall happened and because God wanted to demonstrate his love (Rom 5:8), he sent his only begotten Son. The beauty of God's plan is that we can be restored--"But to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

What kind of love is this? It's the blood-soaked, tear-stained, brutally painful love of adoption. And because the cost was so high to God--the precious life of his Son--you can infer the value that God places on this relationship. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" [Romans 8:38-39]. It is not easy love, but it is real love.

As a parent, there is no quantitative difference in my love for my children. I would trade my life for any of theirs in a heartbeat. There is a large qualitative difference in the love, however. The fear inherent in the question over whether my wife and I can love all our children the same is that we (or any adoptive parent) may love the children born to us more. But there is a reality here that the children born into the family may never understand: the sweat, blood and tears involved in adoption gives our adopted children a special status. We've all had to fight for love, and that ground is not easily surrendered.

Adoption helps me appreciate God's love in Christ for me. I hope all of my children grow to understand this in some way as they see adoption played out in the home or if they choose to adopt some day. Most of all, I hope they understand this love because they have it through their Savior, Jesus Christ. And I pray that they understand it--not simply intellectually--but in their souls as they cling to their Abba Father in faith.