But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
Through the strange quirk of circumstances an acquaintance, a man well into his 80s discovered that his mother was really his aunt, and vice versa. He had been adopted as an infant and never told. In his case, it hadn’t mattered, but that’s not true everywhere. In many cultures when a couple has too many children or can’t afford to raise another child, that child is adopted by a family member.
The adopted child sometimes grows up with rejection, being forced to the level of a domestic servant or hireling, feeling second-class. He gets cast-off clothes, may or not get an education, and is always reminded that he lives by their charity.
Recently a friend who had adopted a child told how the judge who presided over the adoption asked him and his wife to sign a document saying that the child would legally be an heir with all the rights and privileges of a child born to both the husband and the wife. That demand, obviously, was to counter the abuses heaped upon some who have been adopted by people who were more interested in having cheap labor than a son or daughter.
Question: Does God’s family include second-class people, those who are never quite good enough to be members of a church, never included in the social elite, never with enough money to quite fit the mold? A dedicated young woman once told me how she so much wanted to join a church and work with children, but when deacons found out that her child had been conceived out of wedlock, they suggested that she not join their fellowship. Yes, she was second-class.
But is there a second-class membership in the flock of the redeemed?
Paul would have answered in the negative. Writing to the Galatians, he told them that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’" (Galatians 4:4-6).
First, a word about the term adoption. It was a legal word which literally meant “the placing of a son.” William Barclay, a noted linguist and authority on first century customs, said that under Roman law, adoption meant more than the concept we have of it today. First, it meant that the child being adopted was a full legal heir of the adopting parents and could never be excluded even if a child should be born to the parents.
Then it meant that the past of the individual thus adopted ceased to exist. Under Roman law a person who was adopted could never be prosecuted for anything in his past. He also received a new name, the old one ceasing to exist, and he had a future which was as bright as the family itself.
What a beautiful picture, which frames what Paul wrote long ago. God has no second-class children. As Ethel Waters, the black singer who thrilled those who heard her, used to say, “God, don’t make no flops!” The redeeming love of God reaches down, forgives, and accepts freely and without reservation.
It’s possible that you’ve heard me say that one of the saddest letters I have received in years of doing this commentary was from a woman who had been rejected by her mother, raised in an orphanage, and felt she was second-class, at best. She asked if God performs plastic surgery of the heart to take away the trauma of rejection.
The good news, friend, is that He does! He has no second-class children. When you are adopted into His family, you’re a new person! Never forget it.
Resource reading: Romans 8.