Sometimes I get questions that make me think. I love them especially in light of the revelation of who I am and who you are and who our Father is and how it all fits together, our origins. Oh yeah, where you come from is everything. Every single breathing human has thoughts about where they come from. The answer is so simple but so illusive to our minds. The fallen nature of humans to categorize and split and divide and separate into good and bad makes it so hard for us to see what is so plain. This thing in us we call us, the Ego, is not us at all but just an idea of us we come up with while working through our categories. OK, maybe that is too deep for now but how about we take a quick look at a huge misconception in the Christian religious tradition…Adoption.
Adoption, in our minds and in our vernacular and in our experience, is to take someone who is outside a family and bring them into a family. It is a legal contract that is binding on both parties so that a family inheritance or property holdings or whatever will be dealt with as a naturally born family member. In another sense it is an opportunity for a family to share what they have with someone in a legal way. And in another sense it becomes a source of identity or origins. As an adopted child you have a new last name. If the child was an orphan or given up for adoption they were “without a family name” and now they have a family name. You get the picture.
So when we see the word “adoption” in our Bibles we can’t help but see a “before and after.” We see an outside and inside. We see a “not in the family” versus a “now in the family.” Sadly that is just the way our brains work based on our need for categories and our fallen human wisdom which is all a product of forbidden good-bad fruit. Really, we can’t help but see separation first. We see God out there and us down here. We see those who aren’t in my club and those who are in my club. That is NOT what Jesus came to show us. That is not what Jesus reveals about us. That is not what Jesus reveals about us in our Father and our Father in us and us in union with Jesus. There is no separation, no way no how. To say we are separate from God and we still live is to say that we give ourselves life and that makes us gods? Maybe that is an argument you just can’t swallow because you can’t help but see yourself as a machine operating in a universe full of machines. Jesus came to show us that we are not apart. We are not independent. We are not alone. We are not machines.
Have you ever played cards? There is a moment in poker, for example, when you have to “show your cards.” You have to “lay them down” on the table for everyone to see. No more “mysteries” about what you might be holding in your hand. This “laying down” of the cards in Greek is the word títhēmi. It is the origin of the English word thesis. When you present a thesis, you “lay down” an argument that you intend to prove. The English word synthesis gets its origin from the same Greek word.
synthesis: combination or composition [from σύν (sún, “together”) + τίθημι (títhēmi, “set, place”)]
In the Bible the writer Paul uses a made up Greek word that we translate as adoption or sonship. I really wish we translated it differently. It does not mean “adoption” as we understand it at all. We were never “outside” trying to get “inside.” That is what religion teaches us and is what kills Abel. The voice of accusation (the satan) and slanderous (devil) nature of those lies are what drive the human race to murder one another. Check out the last post if you need some background.
We are not separate from God at all. We have never been separate from God other than in our minds. Our salvation is the reconciliation in our minds of our true and intended and designed composition. Our salvation is the redeeming of our identity. Our salvation is the restoring of our understanding of our origins. We “thought” we were separate from God. Jesus reveals to us and demonstrates to us what it looks like to be really human in the divinely created sense. Jesus shows us that we are connected-to-God-creatures with a connection to the divine that has always been there. We had to have a revelation from above or be “born from above” to see it. We had to have a cross with a dead God to shock us back into His reality. We had to see an expression of love in an utterly surrendered Son of God who could have called in the vengeance army but instead forgave us. We had to see a Son of God triumph over death so we would see our origins in Him.
So when Paul made up a word that would capture this “revelation of our origins” he used this word: hyiothesía (hyiós, “son” and títhēmi, “to place”). I don’t know if you can see the “pun” of sorts. The word synthesis is the combination of “sun” and “place.” The word translated as “adoption” is the combination of “son” and “place.” Again this “place” word is like laying your cards out or presenting the proof or making a supposition to an argument or laying out the case evidence in a trial. This “place” word can also mean to confirm like when you give a signet ring to a descendent. The word “son” means descendent. A descendent originates from his or her parents.
Think of the Prodigal son story. The revelation for the pig-pen-son is that he is still the son. He is not apart from his dad even though he was living like he was apart from his dad. His moment of “adoption” in the Pauline sense is the moment the signet ring is placed on his hand. This is our “adoption.”
Let me suggest a different Lance Literal Translation. How about we use “revelation of our origin” or “proof of our origin” or “awakening to our lineage” or “revelation of our union.” Let’s try it out in a passage.
Eph 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (ESV)
Before I put in the substitution let me show you one other word in this verse that can be misunderstood. The word “for” can go both ways. “Billy the Kid is wanted for robbery.” Is Billy the Kid wanted because he committed robbery or is he wanted so he can commit a robbery? Because we know the Billy story we assume it is a “wanted poster” to apprehend the fiend. Are we fiends or children? How about in this verse in Ephesians?
…He prepared for us ahead of time, because of the revelation of our union through Jesus, according to the purpose of His will…to bless us and stuff (LLT)
OK, one more example:
Gal 4:5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (ESV)
The word redeem also means to liberate. The word “receive” should be translated as “take back” or “reclaim.” So here you go:
to liberate and give freedom to those who were under the law so they might reclaim the truth of their origins and the revelation of their union. (LLT)
I hope you can “see” this. Of course you have to want to see it. The fallen human mind has to be set free to be free indeed. Only the truth of Jesus sets it free. What is the truth of Jesus? Even when mankind killed and reject God because we wanted hate and division and religion and exclusion and separation and murder and slander, He still forgave us. He didn’t raise a hand in defense. He didn’t bring on the vengeance angels. He loved us into and through death. When He came out of the grave He still loved us and poured out His Spirit so our minds would be awakened to the truth within us. We are one with Him and have always been that way. No matter what our circumstance His Spirit is crying with our spirit in union.
Rom 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of the truth of your union with God, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (LLT)
So each and every one of us knows where we come from. Will we agree with and abide in and rest in the truth of our origins or insist on the fiction of separation? We are God’s children. Jesus is the proof and the example.