The following post is written by Jordan Roberts, a member of Seven Mile Road and a native of the Bronx, NY.
Some people seem to have a knack for remembering things. There are people in my life who remember my childhood better than I do! I guess I’m just weak in the memory department.
But there are a few recurring scenarios that I remember pretty clearly—things that happened more than once that have become, for me, emblematic of “what life was like back then.” One of these memories is the sense of pride I used to feel, even as a little boy, when people would ask me about my family.
We grew up in the Bronx, in a big house on a crowded street. Many days would find me and a few of my twelve siblings darting back and forth between our front and back yards, playing some version of tag or arguing our way through an intense game of cops and robbers (often involving the use of rosebuds as ammunition and dangerous-looking sticks as makeshift clubs). My family laughs now about what would sometimes happen: Every once in a while, a passing woman would stop one of us. “What is this??” she’d ask.
I remember what it felt like to have the privilege of answering back, “This is a home.” Sometimes the woman would feel the need to clarify: “I mean, is this a group home or a daycare?”
“No, it’s a family.” And with that, I’d run off. These women weren’t being intrusive. It was an honest question. After all, I was a white kid in a Latino neighborhood. Two of the robbers were my Chinese sisters. My older brother, standing reluctant guard over the prison-on-the-porch, is Dominican. There were two older Puerto Rican brothers, too, and two younger Chinese brothers, besides my five white siblings. (We wouldn’t all be playing cops and robbers at the same time, mind you, but there was often a fair sampling.) We were a strange-looking family.
Grace looks strange sometimes, I guess. As I think back over my childhood and what it was like for me growing up with five biological and eight adopted siblings, I don’t think I’m tempted to glamorize having a big family or even adoption itself. There were hard things about growing up with so many siblings, simply because so many people equals so many sinners. We all struggled with different aspects of our life at different points. And without question, my godly parents endured a great deal—the unique blend of sin and suffering that we as their particular children comprised, hardships particular to them and their unusual experience as parents to thirteen.
But though it was often hard, the reality of my family is still amazing—yes, even miraculous. And it has nothing to do with the size of the family. I’m speaking of the reality of Christian adoption itself. It’s not just that my parents cared about outcasts and orphans. That is beautiful, and it’s biblical. It’s one of the many things we as Christians are called to do. Just on that basis I would probably commend adoption as something more Christians should consider getting involved in. But I see more to it.
Adoption is not just beautiful because it manifests the love God shows to the unloved (which it does) or because it mirrors God’s free bestowal of affection and belonging (which it does). I think that Christian adoption, in particular, goes far, far deeper. Deeper than alleviating suffering in the world. Beyond bestowing affection and belonging in this life. When people redeemed by the blood of the Son of God adopt a child into their family, things of eternal significance are happening.
Even with my memory problems, I remember, as clearly as any sibling remembers the day their little brother or sister was born, the day each of the youngest four adopted siblings came home. Those were days my small world was filled with wonder. I can still picture my youngest brother kneeling down with his little backpack as we all stood around in welcome at the airport. Without a word he took out his toys and handed them to us one by one. I can still remember crawling around on the floor with my new sixteen-month old sister, the two of us playing my parents’ suitcase like a drum as the family sat around the room—decorated for Christmas—to hear the stories of their journey. I wouldn’t be surprised if angels were singing that night.
When Jesus told Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of heaven a man needed to be born again, to Nicodemus this sounded ridiculous. You can’t climb back into your mother’s womb and start over. Yes, yes. But what Jesus was getting at was something perhaps a bit more like adoption than like labor and delivery—something more like redemption than creation ex nihilo.
Seeing each of these siblings come through the door and become part of our family was, in some ways, an even clearer picture of the gospel than welcoming a new baby home. The gospel tells us that God takes in people who already had a past. People who once had a different heritage and a different destiny. The gospel is the story not just of new life but of new life out of death. Of a new identity, a new family, a new name, a new heritage, a new inheritance—not written on a blank slate but on a broken and bruised one. It’s not just the start of a new story—it’s an old, sad story eclipsed, healed, translated into a surprise ending.
What’s so wonderful about Christians adopting in particular is that the gospel isn’t merely pictured. What’s so amazing is that in Christian adoption the spiritual and the physical converge. My siblings were born the first time with no heritage and no hope. On the spiritual level, I was born the same. But now—all of us have parents with God as their Father and heaven as their destiny. Children were always meant to be born to parents whose God is the LORD. Christ has begun to put the world—including families—back together. Grace restores nature.
By God’s grace, adoption does not just bring orphaned children into families but fallen children into the family. And this family, God’s family, as Ephesians 2:11–22 shows us, is not based on natural descent. It’s an utterly miraculous eternal siblinghood of people from every race and every nation. In this family, no longer is your identity, heritage, or destiny determined by the one who bore you—but by the Christ who bought you. And this is where the wonder of interracial adoption, in my mind, reflects with a small but shimmering brilliance the wonder of the gospel.
I believe that if more Christian couples are moved to consider adoption, God will be glorified. There are so many ways that He is working—through embryo adoption, international adoption, domestic adoption, foster care; people are supporting adoptive families with prayer, financial support, and thoughtful friendship.
My believing siblings and I share far more than family quirks and fond memories of childhood in the Bronx. If God by grace set his love on them “for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ” before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5), then we were bloodbrothers in his plan before they ever stepped foot in my parents’ home. He could have brought His eternal plan for them into space-time reality any way He chose. But He chose to bring these particular people into His Family by bringing them into mine. I count that a great, great privilege.