In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Perdita (which means ‘the lost one’ in Latin) is left abandoned as a baby in the wilderness because her royal father Leontes, the King of Sicily, wrongly believes his daughter to be illegitimate. She is found and adopted by a shepherd’s family and thus raised in a simple common-man’s home. In spite of her modest upbringing Florizel, the lone heir of the region’s king, falls in love with Perdita and seeks her hand in marriage. Like many stories of adoption the question of identity and the influence of nature and/or nurture on outcomes are key themes considered by the Bard. In this case Perdita’s royal nature is preserved in spite of the fact she is completely unaware of it (as is her suitor Florizel).
Adoption is a time-honoured theme of literature (see Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, or The Secret Garden for example) because it affords writers the opportunity to explore the source and nature of identity. Who we are, or better yet whose we are, is the fundamental human question. The scriptures make frequent use of adoption as both a narrative theme and theological illustration and as we study the scriptures and understand God’s love for us we find adoption to be the very heart of the gospel itself.
Natural adoption is a wonderful act. It is an act of someone’s will for the adopter is not typically under any obligation to parent a child to whom they have no natural relation. It is an act of love demonstrated by the self-sacrifice the adopter makes to take upon themselves the needs of another (and again, someone to whom they had no prior obligation). Finally, it is an act of grace for the adopter’s initiative extends to one unable to earn, merit, or deserve the care, provision, and love they receive. Perhaps you know, as I do, families with adopted children. Is there ever any question of the legitimacy of the family unit? Is there ever any question that the adopted child is as much a member of the family as any natural child? In fact not only are they the benefactors of the love and care of family, legally they become joint-heirs of every right and privilege the state would grant a natural born child.
It is no different with God’s spiritual adoption of his children. The Westminster shorter catechism says: “Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.” This Sunday our preaching text is Galatians 3:23-29 and therein we will find the beautiful truth of our adoption into God’s family through our justification by faith in Christ: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29)” We will once again see a beautiful truth in our glorious gospel: whilst the law makes sinners prisoners, the Lord makes sinners his children.
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.