God's Sovereignty in Unethical Adoption

Unethical adoption has been a topic of many blog posts and news articles in recent days. I've started my own series to address some of these issues. This is a very serious topic and one that can be difficult to comprehend in light of God's sovereignty, that is, the good and the bad that he allows to happen. I hope I can shed some light on this.

I want to be clear that though I do have Bible training, I make no claims of being an expert on how God works and I am so far beyond understanding why God allows some things to happen. But I can share what God has said in His Word and some practical thoughts.

First of all, I want to clarify that unethical does not necessarily mean illegal. Illegal means it was against the law. Unethical means that it should not have happened for various moral reasons, which can include illegal adoptions. Of course no one wants to be involved in an illegal adoption, but I believe an illegal adoption of a child that was truly in need of adoption is better than a legal adoption of a child that never should have been adopted. (Updated: I am NOT saying illegal adoption is sometimes okay. It is never okay. I am only saying that if wrong has been committed, it is better to have happened in the legal system than to a child and his or her extended family.) I also understand there is a difference of opinion in some situations as to whether or not an adoption was unethical.

Secondly, I don't think the adoptive parents are to blame in the case of an unethical adoption. (Unless of course you pushed for something you shouldn't have, or moved forward when you clearly felt God wanting you to back out of the adoption).

I think it is really hard for prospective adoptive parents as a whole to understand the complexity of the issues and I feel most parents went in with pure intentions truly just trying to help. The entire system of international adoption is flawed and I feel certain players (sometimes the agencies, sometimes local staff, sometimes the government, usually a combination of all) let things go on that should never be happening. While prospective adoptive parents have created a demand, it has been unwittingly and in-country adoption workers should know better than to let this fuel the supply.

So how does the Bible shed light on this very complicated issue?

Throughout the Bible it is stated over and over that God is in control of every aspect of our lives.

Proverbs 19:21 reads, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."

Yet in some strange, mysterious way, we humans also have free well.

Despite our free will, the Bible is very clear that if God had not wanted something to happen, if he had not allowed it to happen in his greater purpose, it wouldn't have happened. Though better choices could have been made, though sin still should not have been committed, the amazing mystery of God is that he uses it all for his glory.

This absolutely does not mean we should be sloppy in our adoptions or ministry, or any aspect of life, but it does mean we can trust God will use the mistakes that have already taken place.

I can't begin to understand all this, but this is one of my greatest comforts in life.

God always uses everything for His good.


He does it with our sin all the time. He does it with those who sin against us. He does it with natural disasters, health crises, tragedy, death. Is he not God enough to do this with your unethical adoption?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery because they were so jealous of their father's special love for him. Then they lied to their father and claimed Joseph was killed by a wild animal. Later on, through the course of events, Joseph was raised from his position of slavery to be second in command in all of Egypt. When a great famine came to the land, God used Joseph's wisdom to devise a way to store up enough food so hundreds of thousands of people would be saved, including Joseph's very large extended family. 

Joseph says to his brothers, whom he is reunited with later in life, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:20) This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible is it so clearly shows God's  greater purpose in evil.

It is almost mind boggling to think of the logistics that took place to get Joseph from where he was living with his shepherding family to the palaces of Egypt. But God always has a plan. He's using everything from our naivete, to our mistakes, to our obedience to accomplish this plan.

In life there are so many times where we look back and say, "Had I known what I know now, I would have done things differently." It's just part of being human. This has been true for many as they think about international adoption and even look into the faces of the children they brought home. But you can't go back. Are you willing to trust God with the choices you've already made and say, "God, I don't know if I was right or wrong, but I trust that you will use this."

Are you willing to acknowledge the fact that God has a plan even for your failures?

Can you trust that your God is big enough to use even this for his glory? For your good? For the ultimate good of the child you adopted?

I choose to believe that the God who created this world and holds everything in his hands is God enough to use even unethical adoption for his glory.

Many of you reading this had perfectly legitimate adoptions of children in need. If in the past you've been content with the situation you adopted your child from, don't become riddled with guilt over the possibility that maybe it was unethical after all. That's not going to accomplish anything beneficial. 

Up next, some practical thoughts on what to do now if you think or know your adoption was unethical.


Denise Horrocks said...

If it's morally wrong, it's wrong. :)

Melodie said...

This is true, Denise. What I am referring to is certain situations that people disagree on. For example, some think it is always wrong for a child to be adopted if they have a living birth mother (who is not abusive, etc., and is just seeking a better life for her child). I think there are some cases when adoption IS appropriate for children with a living parent.

Denise Horrocks said...

I just can't wrap my mind around an "illegal adoption" ever being right... :)

"I believe an illegal adoption of a child that was truly in need of adoption is better than a legal adoption of a child that never should have been adopted."


Melodie said...

I don't think an illegal adoption is ever "right". Not at all. I do feel, though, that the most important part of an adoption is that the child needed adoption and birth parents/relatives fully understood what adoption meant. Since adoption effects the child more than anything, I believe if wrong is committed, it is better to have happened in the legal system, and not to the child or his family. I still do NOT feel illegal adoption is ever okay.

randie & doug said...

"Are you willing to acknowledge the fact that God has a plan even for your failures?"
Could you please elaborate on this question a bit? Unfortunately, I read it as you saying the adoptions we took part in that resulted in the children in our family now, were failures. I have had a boatload of failures in my life that God has definitely used, thankfully, but I would not count the children in my family as 2 of them. I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just trying to understand this statement/question and get clarification if I am reading it wrong.

Melodie said...

Thanks for your question Randie. Some people feel they have failed God, others, the child they adopted, the child's birth family, etc. by their adoptions, especially if the adoptions were unethical (not saying I agree or disagree). In my post I am more referring to our failures in general, not necessarily adoption related. For example, I feel I failed some children in Liberia when I couldn't help them, or didn't do enough. I have to trust that God will use that for his glory. I "fail" God when I disobey him or don't listen to his gentle nudges. God's plan is not thwarted even then. I do NOT feel that adoption as a whole is a failure, or even a failed system. It is a flawed system, but when done right can be very beautiful and biblical.

Alicia said...

I'm sorry that this post doesn't have anything to do with what you wrote about but I just wanted to say that I really like your blog! That is so cool that you were an MK in West Africa. I am currently a 17 year old MK living in Niger, West Africa with my family. If you'd like to see my blog about my life overseas here's the link: http://desertviolet.blogspot.com
I can't wait to check out your blog more! :)

Mary Hoyt said...

Thank you, Melodie. This is the first pastorally-toned blog post I've read geared toward those of us who have struggled with adoption guilt. I appreciate your tone and approach.