By Dick Stenbakken . . . I knew from as far back as I can remember that I was adopted. My parents made it clear that they chose me to be their own. To me, it always seemed somewhat special —an honor— to have been adopted. It didn’t make me any better than anyone, but it created a special bond with my parents.
Paul mentions adoption in his epistles (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). The churches to which he wrote, mentioning adoption, were all Gentile-Roman groups. While there was no practice of adoption among the Jews, the concept of adoption had very special meaning in Roman culture. Romans adopted others as adults, not as children. Adoptions were done to pass on inheritance and continue the family line. It also carried with it the responsibility of the adoptee to not only inherit, but to correctly manage the estate inherited and to bring honor to the new father and family name.
Roman adoption process was a very formalized ritual. On completion, before witnesses, the son now became officially a new person with an entirely new identity.
The new identity was more than a change of name. The adopted son now had full legal rights of inheritance as if he were a natural-born son. All past debits were gone. He was officially related to the new, not the old, family. In Roman law, and in many states today, once someone is adopted, he cannot be disowned by the adopting father. While the Roman father could disinherit a natural-born son, he could never disinherit his adopted son. Adoption was forever. The adoptee could walk away from his new father, but the father could never walk away from his adopted son.
Read that last line again. Let it sink in. No wonder Paul says, “…We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons….” (Romans 8:23 NIV). Our adoption as children of God differs from Roman adoption in that we make the choice to allow our adoption. It isn’t something done to us, it is something in which we actively participate. When we do, we are His—forever. He will not walk away from us. He invites us to be full inheritors of His name and His kingdom. We can leave the past and be a totally new person.
I was a newborn when adopted. I had no say in the process. God gives us a choice, an invitation to be adopted and be fully, freely, finally and forever His. It’s an honor to be adopted— twice.
–Dick Stenbakken, Ed. D. Chaplain (Colonel) U.S. Army, Retired