Y’all may have picked up on the fact that our opinion of Lifeline Children’s Services has gone from superfan six months ago to, well, not superfan. Occasionally a tweet from a Lifeline employee or a Lifeline Facebook status update comes across one of my screens. I generally disregard them. There was one last week, though, that I believe is worth discussing because it goes to the heart of the misinformation and manipulation that is such an unfortunate part of the Christian adoption movement.
Let’s chat about redemption…
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it:
: the act of making something better or more acceptable
: the act of exchanging something for money, an award, etc.
Christianity : the act of saving people from sin and evil : the fact of being saved from sin or evil
Google says it this way:
- the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. “God’s plans for the redemption of his world”
- the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.
Dictionary.com gets even more detailed:
1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
2. deliverance; rescue.
3. Theology . deliverance from sin; salvation.
4. atonement for guilt.
5. repurchase, as of something sold.
6. paying off, as of a mortgage, bond, or note.
7. recovery by payment, as of something pledged.
8. conversion of paper money into specie.
I think we, the adoption community as a whole, have lost track of the core definition of this word. Redemption can be boiled down to two things – being saved from sin or evil as in our eternal salvation through Christ’s sacrifice or gaining possession of something in exchange for money. These definitions do not seem to apply to adoption, but we have arrived at the use of this word over the course of listening to many sermons and reading many books. It was a slow development of the adoption lingo years in the making. You see, we would all agree adoption is a picture of the gospel because God adopted us as sons and daughters. We would also agree our redemption as a result of what Christ did on the cross is the core of the gospel. But while these two things are true, the concept of adoption being redemption, part of redemption, or even a picture of redemption is invalid.
It is a logical fallacy. A false syllogism. It is a result of the way we think when we are not really thinking.
Friends, we are not Christ. We are imitators of Christ. It is an obedient goal to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to bring the gospel to every corner of the earth, but being a part of God’s story of redemption in the lives of others is not redemption. It is obedience. We are not part of a sinner’s redemption. We are part of their story. Christ alone gets glory for the redemption of a child from the sin and evil in their hearts.
I love the way redemption is defined in Hodge’s Systematic Theology as…
the purchase back of something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom. The Greek word so rendered is _apolutrosis_, a word occurring nine times in Scripture, and always with the idea of a ransom or price paid…. The idea running through all these texts, however various their reference, is that of payment made for our redemption. The debt against us is not viewed as simply cancelled, but is fully paid. Christ’s blood or life, which he surrendered for them, is the “ransom” by which the deliverance of his people from the servitude of sin and from its penal consequences is secured. It is the plain doctrine of Scripture that “Christ saves us neither by the mere exercise of power, nor by his doctrine, nor by his example, nor by the moral influence which he exerted, nor by any subjective influence on his people, whether natural or mystical, but as a satisfaction to divine justice, as an expiation for sin, and as a ransom from the curse and authority of the law, thus reconciling us to God by making it consistent with his perfection to exercise mercy toward sinners”
Redemption as it pertains to gaining possession of something in exchange for money is also an inaccurate term for adoption. If this applied to adoption it would indicate baby buying and child trafficking. Consider this carefully. Child trafficking has no place in adoption. In fact, the heart of adoption and nearly all of the people involved in adoption is the opposite of child trafficking. Adoption is a way to give parents to a parentless child and to give a child to a loving family.
We must speak about adoption, the gospel, and redemption. But we must choose our words carefully. We must be conscious of the way we select our vernacular. We are blessed to be part of the story God is writing, but let us not DARE allow children to be trafficked…and let us not DARE compare the work we do to what Christ did on the cross.