About a month ago I was hanging out with some friends when someone raised a really interesting question for discussion: Should single women adopt?
One friend, who comes from a large family in which a number of her siblings are adopted, had an immediate response. She felt that this was absolutely wrong, and contrary to God’s design for the family. As she explained, God created families to be composed of a mother AND a father, and while there are families in our broken world that fall outside that category, and God can still redeem them, it is not a scenario to be sought after intentionally.
Another friend of mine was not so sure. She pointed out that there are a LOT of orphans in the world, and as Christianity Today recently reported, as many as a third of Christian women will have to remain single because they so greatly outnumber Christian men. What is better, for a child to be raised in an orphanage, or to be raised by a godly, caring single woman? The answer would seem quite obvious.
Honestly, I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m sometimes wary of the emphasis that Christians place on the family as being THE fundamental foundation of our community. Now don’t freak out on me yet–I’m not saying it’s not important. It is. But what is more important, more fundamental and foundational, is the Church. As the Body of Christ, we have a responsibility not only to our own families, but to every member in our community, as well as their children. This point is grossly understated in our language about family and the church.
When I got married, I stood before an entire community of people whose very presence was a kind of commitment to hold me and my husband accountable to our vows. I expect that accountability, encouragement and teaching to continue the rest of our lives, and many of my married friends expect the same of me. That said, if a single Christian woman were to adopt a child, I would expect that child to be well cared for by her entire church community, which possesses ample men who can be a kind of father figure for the child. In fact, this should be happening in any church community in which single parents exist. As the Body of Christ, we play a crucial role in our friends’ children’s lives.
So with that in mind, I can see an argument for single mother adoption, not on the basis of God’s created design for the family, but on God’s created design for the Church.
HOWEVER, to jump to such a conclusion is to miss the real problem altogether. If we have come to a place in which the numbers of orphans are so vast that the burden is falling onto single women to adopt them, then married couples are missing their call. Scripture specifically highlights orphans as a demographic we are to care for (James 1:27), and it’s no wonder–is there a better picture on earth of what God did for us? Though we made ourselves strangers to Him through our sin, God adopted us through the sacrifice of his Son and loves us as his children, allowing us to inherit all that He has.
Amidst a culture that values biological children so highly, going to extreme lengths that are sometimes theologically questionable–in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, etc.–we must be cautious of the message we are sending. Our biological children are not more important than adopted ones. So while it is by no means wrong to desire and have our own children, we must value all life equally, consider the way that God, not culture, defines parenthood, and take seriously our call to care for orphans and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). After all, adoption fulfills both those Scriptural commands, while blessing a child in a way that will not only change their life for the better but enhance their love for God.
So should single women adopt? I’m still not entirely sure and I would really love to hear your input, but I don’t want that debate to overshadow the bigger issue. In America where we have so much and countless Christian parents have sufficient financial resources to support large families, why aren’t they adopting? My friend who was raised in a large family of adopted children explained that while her dad was a doctor and they could have lived a more luxurious lifestyle had they had fewer children, her parents chose to live at a slightly lower standard so that they could adopt more children. What a wonderfully counter-cultural, radical Christian idea!
This is truly something that more married couples should be praying about it. God may not call your family to adoption, but you will never know if you don’t come before Him in surrendered obedience and ask. And if He does call you to adoption, I guarantee you will share in many of the blessings and joy that God received in adopting us.