“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5 - ESV).
It is a common practice to remind Believers in Jesus Christ that they are not orphans but rather sons of God. The analogy of an orphan is not wrong and is in fact Biblical. Jesus encourages His disciples in John 14 by telling them He would not leave them as orphans and would come again. Nevertheless, as we take a brief look at what it means to be “adopted as sons” I encourage you to consider a slightly different analogy - the street child.
The plight of children living on the street is nothing new and has been well documented since the mid-19th century. In 1848 Lord Ashley recorded that there were more than 30,000 “naked, filthy, roaming lawless and deserted children” in London. In fact the YMCA and Sunday school movements were started to address this need. Sadly, the problem is continuing to grow. UNICEF had defined three types of Street Children, those who have run away from families and live on the street, those who work on the streets, fending for themselves, and those who live on the street with their families.
The first group is the most disconcerting and are present in every global city. These children live a life of fighting to survive and are often exploited and abused. Life is extremely dangerous and many are forced into gangs for survival and a place to belong – a family. Several organizations estimate there are well over 100 million street children in the world! There are many reasons why children end up on the street - all of which are tragic. These children are often an embarrassment to governments and therefore their rights as citizens are often ignored leaving them almost invisible to the broader community. As a result, they are stuck in this cycle unless someone from the outside intercedes.
Sadly, there are many Believers who have taken on the identity of a Street Child. In other words, they fail to understand that they have been adopted as sons and have been given a new name, a new family, a new legal standing, a new identity, and an almost unfathomable inheritance! Street Children have a reason to live on the street, Christians don’t.
As Ephesians 1:5 states, Believers in Jesus Christ have been adopted into an eternal, secure and gracious loving family and have been given the identity of “son”. Paul is not being a misogynist when he uses this word. It was purposeful and powerful. In the first century daughters did not have the same rights as sons, especially first born sons. What Paul writes is profound as he is saying that regardless of your gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status (Galatians 3:28-29), it is an adoption whereby the Believer receives the rights and privileges of the first born son! That was incredibly powerful to the first century audience and should still be today. After all, the Believer is a co-heir with the true first born son - Jesus Christ! Think about that! This is a remarkable concept and means that there is no need for a Believer to live with a Street Child mentality. We have been given first born son status!
Let me go a little further . . . this adoption as sons is not simply utilitarian, but is rooted in love. In fact all family members have total access to God our Father. Now please understand, God does not change and is the same holy God that Isaiah encountered and said “woe is me!” God doesn't change! But as sons the Believer gets to wear our big brothers’ righteous robes which cover our sin and gives us the right to call God “Abba” or “daddy.” God delights in His sons and loves them more than anyone could ever ask or imagine.
Note well these powerful words from 1 John 3:1. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are”. Are you living like a street child rather than a son? Do you believe that God is mad at you? Is that why you have chosen to live as spiritual street child? Are you fighting for survival by making unhealthy alliances? If so, remember who you are!