“In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system.
But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted.”
Galatians 4:3-5 (Common English Bible)
Instant Family, a 2018 American comedy film starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, weaves a story of a married couple considering the option of adopting a child. The hopeful parents are brought to an adoption fair where they have the opportunity to meet children they may consider adopting. As the story unfolds, the couple becomes foster parents to three siblings, one a teenager – foster care a requirement on the journey towards adoption. As foster parents there are laws that govern the dynamics of the relationship they will have with the children. One such law is that the children’s cell phone cannot be taken away. Although this “new” family initially experiences joy, it doesn’t take long for things to get hectic. Though the movie is a heart-warming comedy, it does grapple honestly with the struggles and difficulties that are a part of any family, particularly with an “instant” family as this one.
We were very much like the three children in the movie. The three children were in a foster system with its own regulations and rules and we were in “this world’s system” with laws that made claims upon us. The Apostle Paul writes that we were “enslaved” to the world’s way of looking at things. We are no stranger to how the world sees things; to the values that shape a world outlook on life. The worship of money, the passionate pursuit of success and position, and the desire for comforts found in ease, food and drink form the tapestry of a world outlook. Initially, that outlook may not appear to be enslavement. It all seems to be quite attractive, particularly to those who are still striving for them. Yet, with all the promises of happiness with this outlook, those who are honest will confess to a deep-seated dissatisfaction with life. What remains is a hope for something more.
In the movie, Instant Family, the three children desire something more than foster care with all of its rules, restrictions, and uncertainty. Realizing how much they love and care for the three children, the couple also long for something more, something deeper. Eventually they all gather for a court hearing to decide on the question of adoption. It has been a long, broken road to the court hearing but the three children and the couple all want to become a legal family. Love has gripped each of their hearts. The old system of foster care no longer brought deep satisfaction and joy. The adoption is finalized and the laws that governed foster care fall away. The relationship of the children to their adoptive parents will now be governed by a more generous and gracious dynamic. Each of the five begins the joyous discovery together of what it means to belong to each other.
In the person of Jesus Christ, our own enslavement to the world and its values has ended. We have been adopted as God’s very own children. It is an adoption that has been secured by a God that desires something more for us, something less restrictive, and more gracious, something less uncertain, and more shaped by family ties. This adoption brings with it a new outlook on life, a new way of seeing things. Creation is the work of a purposeful God. It is not something to be exploited for personal gain but something that is to be managed well that it may be a blessing for all people. The possibilities of human life are no longer limited by our own ingenuity and strength but are expanded by God’s own creative purposes. Adoption releases us from the pursuit of meaning and happiness in material things and invites us to experience these things in relationships with others and with God. Those things that are valued by the world cannot satisfy and ultimately lead to brokenness and death. Attention to a relationship with loved ones and God is life and peace.