If you want your “dream baby,” do not adopt or foster a child: buy a cat and make-believe. Adopting an orphan isn’t ordering a consumer item or buying a pet. Such a mindset hurts the child, and countless other children and families. Adoption is about taking on risk as cross-bearing love.
For years, I’ve called Christian churches and families to our James 1:27 mandate to care for widows and orphans in their distress, to live out the adoption we’ve received in the gospel by adopting and fostering children. At the same time, I’ve maintained that, while every Christian is called to care for orphans and widows, not every Christian is called to adopt or foster. As a matter of fact, there are many who, and I say this emphatically, should not.
Love of any kind brings risk, and, in a fallen world, brings hurt. Simeon tells our Lord’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart. That’s true, in some sense, for every mother, every father. Even beyond that, every adoption, every orphan, represents a tragedy. Someone was killed, someone left, someone was impoverished, or someone was diseased. Wrapped up in each situation is some kind of hurt, and all that accompanies that. That’s the reason there really is no adoption that is not a “special needs” adoption; you just might not know on the front end what those special needs are.
We live in a time in which our commitments have become the opportunity often for simply a narcissistic self-realization. Weddings have become events for planners and photographers putting on what seems to be a state dinner honoring the “love of the couple.” Children often become props in a life of parents who are seeking to grasp whatever they believe the world owes them. It’s easier to pull off that kind of an illusion of self-centrality with your engagement photos and wedding party than it is with children, though. Children are alive. Children are persons, with individuality that can’t ultimately be suppressed. Children, of all sorts, are, by definition, unpredictable. Children shatter your life-plan. Adoption certainly does.
It’s worth it.
But Jesus tells us we ought to know that a king going into battle must measure his troops, a tower-builder must count the expenses of the project (Lk. 14:28-31). Those who see adoption as a warm, sentimental way of having a baby are mistaken and dangerous. There are far too many who plunge in without counsel, without a commitment to fidelity no matter what. They search around for a baby who fits their specifications. And babies never fit your specifications…at least not when they grow up.
If what’s behind all of this isn’t crucified, war-fighting, eyes-open commitment, you are going to wind up with a child who is twice orphaned. He or she will be abandoned the first time by fatherlessness and the second time by the rejection of failing to live up to the expectations of parents who had no business imposing such expectations in the first place.
We need a battalion of Christians ready to adopt, foster, and minister to orphans. But that means we need Christians ready to care for real orphans, with all the brokenness and risk that comes with it. We need Christians who can reflect the adopting power of the gospel, which didn’t seek out a boutique nursery but a household of ex-orphans who were found wallowing in our own blood, with Satan’s genes in our bloodstreams.
If what you like is the idea of a baby who fulfills your needs and meets your expectations, just buy a cat. Decorate the nursery, if you’d like. Dress it up in pink or blue, and take pictures. And be sure to have it declawed.
Dr. Russell D. Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.