Read Ephesians 1:3-14, Jeremiah 31:1-9 here
Long ago, before the creation of the world, God loved us and chose us.
Those words from Ephesians 1 are the epigraph at the beginning of Max Lucado’s book He Chose the Nails. As I sat in my seat on the airplane in Austin, Texas, waiting to begin my flight back to Los Angeles, I read those words with tears in my eyes. I was coming home from my very first business trip. It was my first time to travel alone and I had been very nervous. Not long before this I had met God in a new way at a worship conference, so this was also my first time to travel prayerfully, noticing God’s little gifts along the way. It was on this trip that I first learned that my boss was a Christian and that some of my coworkers were Christian, and we had conversations about how God was working in our lives, not something we had talked about before.
Now, at the end of the trip, I was hungry for more of God’s blessings and so I had wandered through the airport bookstore looking for a book. I don’t remember why I chose this book. Something on the cover caught my eye, I guess. I had been pondering all the events of the trip, all that I had learned about God. Maybe I was wondering how God had worked all this together. When I opened the book and started reading, I found the most amazing explanation:
Long before the creation of the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ.
God loves us. God chose us. God chose me. God chose you.
I don’t know if this is your experience, but when I was in elementary school, I was the one who was chosen last. This basically means that I wasn’t chosen at all. You know how this works. Two kids are appointed team leaders and they each take turns picking who will be on their teams. I don’t remember what we were playing. Volleyball, softball, dodgeball. One of those, probably.
I remember one of the kids saying, “Don’t pick her. She wears glasses. She won’t be able to see the ball.” The first time they said that, they were making a huge assumption. After they saw me play, though, they knew they were right. I wasn’t very good at sports. I wouldn’t have chosen me for my team, either. But it still hurt to feel unwanted.
They wanted me around later, though. When nobody could figure out the answers to the homework, they said, “Let’s go ask her. She’s got glasses. She must be smart.” Another horrible assumption. But they were right. I usually did know the answers. And it felt good to be chosen as the one to ask.
We see this very same phenomenon happening on the reality shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. All the drama, all the cheesiness, all the showing off and trashing each other. It’s all the wrong things about dating and relationships, and yet millions of viewers watch religiously to see who gets chosen. It speaks to that part deep inside of us that we often deny where we all just want to be loved.
Maybe that’s why there are so many adoption stories. I started compiling a list of books and movies and TV shows and finally had to give up because there are so many. I think what fascinates us is that someone would choose to take someone they’re not related to into their family. The idea that someone would choose to love us strikes a deep chord in us.
It strikes a deep chord because we all need love.
It strikes a deep chord because, whether we realize it or not, it’s our story.
Long before God made the world, he chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided to adopt us into his family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:4-5)
It’s an amazing idea because we all know how complicated families can be. Every family is different, but every family has struggles. Some have little fights, some have big fights. The family of God has struggles, too. The Bible is the story of those struggles.
In the Old Testament we read how the struggles began all the way back in the Garden of Eden. It was a beautiful place, but there was one rule that needed to be followed, one request God made, and Adam and Eve did the human thing and did the one thing God said not to do. They ate the fruit from the one tree they were supposed to avoid. The consequence for that was being sent out of the garden, but that didn’t mean that God forgot about them. God still loved them.
Have you ever wondered how Adam and Eve felt when they were sent out of the Garden of Eden? They were really put out.
The prophet Jeremiah was one of those who spoke God’s words of love so that the people would know that God had not forgotten them, even though things were going so badly. Israel was being attacked. Jerusalem was under siege. People were being captured and carried off to Babylon. Everything was being destroyed. People were dying. Nothing would ever be the same again. The temple was destroyed. This was the place they would go to find God. If they didn’t have the temple, and they were being taken hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem, how would they ever find God again?
They had continued to do the things that God had told them not to do, and the consequence for that was being sent out of the promised land, but that didn’t mean that God forgot about them. God still loved them.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3
Even though it seemed all was lost, there was hope, Jeremiah tells of God’s promise that they would not be in exile forever.
“With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back. . . for I have become a father to Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:9)
God had adopted Israel, chosen them to be his children, and he had promised he would never abandon them (Deut 31:6,8), even when they turned away from him. We read in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that Israel did get released from captivity in Babylon and they came back to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, as Jeremiah’s words had foretold. Jeremiah’s words also pointed ahead to Jesus and the adoption that would come through Jesus, and remind us that Jesus was God’s plan all along. That everlasting love Jeremiah speaks of is the same love Paul tells us about in Ephesians that God had for us before he made the world.
The movie Despicable Me (2010) is an adoption story, and I like it because in the typical extremes of cartoons, everything is wrong about this, and still love wins. The main character Gru is working hard at being the most evil villain in the world. He chooses to adopt the three sisters Margo, Edith and Agnes because he sees potential in them to help him with his evil schemes. The orphanage sends the girls out selling cookies to raise money, and Gru sees how effective they are at getting his enemy to buy cookies, so he adopts them so they can help him beat his enemy.
He’s the worst possible parent. He doesn’t like children. He’s easily angered by them. They’re not perfect kids, either. Everything is wrong about this situation, and yet in the end love wins.
What I love about it most is that, even though it’s fiction, it reminds us that we can mess up as parents, we can mess up as children, but love still wins. They become a family. Gru learns how to love and care for them, and the girls learn to love and trust Gru. Adoption means they’re bound together forever. The girls have found their forever home with Gru. No more orphanages.
The classic book Anne of Green Gables is another adoption story. Anne became an orphan when she was 3 months old. She’s had lots of different homes, but none of them lasted very long. The story is set at the end of the 19th century when there were no formal adoption laws. It was common to take in an orphan to help with chores. The book begins when Matthew and Marilla first meet Anne, and they’re ready to send her back to the orphanage because she was supposed to be a boy to help on the farm. But Anne’s story makes them hesitate and think that maybe they ought not to be just another one of the places that have sent Anne away. And so they don’t. She stays, but she’s on probation. There’s always the threat that they’ll send her back. One day Marilla thinks Anne has stolen something, so Anne is sent back to the orphanage.
Later that day Marilla finds the item she thought Anne had taken. It had fallen between the chair cushions. Matthew jumps on his horse headed for the train station to stop Anne from leaving. He’s too late, and a complicated search begins. When he finally does find Anne, she doesn’t want to come back. She doesn’t want to wonder anymore whether she’ll be sent back again. She’d rather be homeless than live with the uncertainty of being unwanted. Matthew is unable to persuade her until he calls her daughter, the sign that the relationship has changed. Matthew and Marilla adopt Anne. There will be no more threat of sending her away. She has found her forever home.
Sometimes we wonder the same about God. If we mess up, will God still love us? If we mess up, will God leave us? Jesus tells us a story to help us see that God’s love isn’t based on that. It doesn’t matter how badly we mess up, God still loves us with that everlasting love and waits for us with open arms.
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:11-24)
That’s how God is with us, and that’s what adoption means. We deserve judgment, but God throws a party.
Long before the creation of the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:4-5)
Not because we were good enough. Not because we do the right things, or keep from doing the wrong things, because we don’t. We mess up. We’re not perfect parents and we’re not perfect children, but God is our perfect parent who loves us anyway.
Through faith in Jesus, we are adopted by God into God’s family. Nothing we do is going to change that.
Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
That was always God’s plan.
God is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Eph 1:7)
He chose us to be his children. Holy and without fault in his eyes.
And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Eph 1:13-14)
This is the good news of the Gospel.
Adoption stories speak to us because they’re our story. The Bible is the story of God adopting us to be his children, giving us our forever home where we find our rest and peace in his loving arms.
Adoption stories also speak to us because they are a call to us to help others know God’s amazing love, so they don’t have to wonder whether they’re good enough for God.
Adoption stories speak to us because they are a call to us to love God’s children, especially orphans, with the love that he has given us.
Psalm 68:5 God is a father to the fatherless
Long ago, before the creation of the world, God loved us and chose us and adopted us.
Every one of us – not just here in this room, but every one of us in this world.
In Anne of Green Gables, all that has to happen for Anne to be adopted is that they all agree that her new name is Anne Shirley Cuthbert, and she signs her name in the family Bible.
For us to be adopted by God, all we have to do is profess our faith in Jesus Christ, and from then on we are God’s beloved children, and our names are forever written in God’s book of life.
We are his forever.