Christianity has a unique vertical to horizontal movement; and its vertical movement is never first man to God. It is always first God coming down to man in grace. As a result, we move horizontally as Christians because God first moved vertically as Redeemer.
Consider these examples: First, love moved vertically before it ever moved horizontally. The Apostle John writes: “We love because he [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Second, forgiveness is first vertical before it’s horizontal. Paul commanded the Ephesian church to forgive one another even as God in Christ had forgiven them (Eph. 4:32). To borrow John’s words from 1 John 4:19, “We forgive because God first forgave us.”
Third, in Romans 15 the Christians in Rome are commanded to welcome one another as Christ had already welcomed them (Rom. 15:7). Once again we see this vertical to horizontal movement. We welcome horizontally, Paul says, because we have been welcomed vertically. Christianity has this distinct vertical to horizontal movement. Without it Christianity ceases to be Christianity.
So, here’s the question: How does this vertical to horizontal movement relate to adoption?
Ephesians 1:5 clearly teaches that adoption existed in the mind and will of God before there was any such thing as people adopting children. The Graeco-Roman world did not invent adoption. God did. This means that adoption moved vertically, from God to man, before it ever moved horizontally, from man to man.
We must be very careful here, though. Scripture commands all Christians to love, forgive and welcome others, but it does not command all Christians to adopt. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even require that some Christians adopt.
What we can say with absolutely certainty, though, is that God does expect those whom he adopts to visit orphans in their affliction (James 1:27). My point is simply this: the love that adopts is the love that cares for orphans. As Christians, we should be moved and empowered to visit the fatherless because God visited us when we were without hope in this world (Eph. 2:11-13). For some, that will mean adoption; for others, it may involve helping others adopt or joining with other Christians to provide some form of humanitarian aide or support for orphaned children.
However we Christians are involved in visiting orphans in their affliction, it should be Christianity’s vertical to horizontal movement that moves us out in compassion. Christians should not only be the most loving, forgiving and welcoming people on the planet, we should also be the most orphan-caring.
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