The Message of Jesus: Discovering Adoption


One night in 1975, while waiting for his meal in a restaurant, Gary Klahr struck up a conversation with a man seated at the table next to him. His name was Steve Barbin. By the time they finished their meal, Gary and Steve had pushed their tables together and were well on the way to becoming best friends. Over time, they grew so close that they finished each other’s sentences and laughed at jokes that no one else seemed to understand. Gary told Steve he thought of him as a true brother. He explained that his parents had tried for years to have a child before he came along, and they called him their gift from God. Steve, on the other hand, had been adopted.

Gary and Steve had been best friends for 23 years when, out of the blue, Gary got a phone call from a woman with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

“You should probably sit down before I tell you why I’m calling,” she said. “Did you know that you were adopted?”

“Are you sure you have the right Gary Klahr?” Gary asked.

She persisted, “Believe me,” she said, “I wouldn’t do this if I weren’t sure. One of your biological siblings needs urgent medical information from his family.”

Gary was stunned. His parents had always treated him as if he was their own biological child. They never even hinted that he was adopted.

“In all my years in this work, I’ve never seen a case like this,” the woman said. “Your biological parents lived in Bridgeport and they had 13 children. Nine of them were adopted by other families. Is there someone besides your parents that you can talk to about this? Perhaps, someone you are close to?”

“My buddy Steve is adopted and he is okay with it,” Gary said slowly. “So I guess I will be too, once I have some time to get over it.”

The woman from the Department of Children and Families asked, “What’s Steve’s last name?”

“Barbin” he replied.

“Gary,” she continued, “Steve is your brother!”

Can you imagine it? How would you feel if you suddenly discovered that your best friend, the one you have been calling your brother, turns out to actually be your real brother? You don’t have to imagine it, because this is the situation for every one of us.

In New Testament times, society had clear divisions. Jews would have nothing to do with Gentiles, whom they considered spiritually inferior. Many first-century Christians came from a Jewish background, so we can easily understand how Gentiles who became Christians may have  felt like second-class citizens. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul sets out to correct this.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision”… remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made  the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier…. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace…. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. (Ephesians 2:11-19)

Paul had grasped what was, at the time, a revolutionary point of truth. The old divisions between Jew and Gentile had become irrelevant. Jesus as our elder brother included both Jew and Gentile in the relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that he had a unique relationship with God. Only he knew the Father well enough to reveal him to others (Matthew 11:27). Jesus called God by the Aramaic word Abba, an affectionate word that children and adults used for their fathers. Perhaps the best modern equivalent is “Dad.”

In prayer, Jesus talked to his “Dad,” asking him for help and giving him thanks for whatever he had. Although we are not children of God in exactly the same way that Jesus is the Son (we are adopted by grace), Jesus told us that God is also our Dad, and we can talk to him just as he did. Using the word Abba isn’t required in prayers today, but the widespread use of the word in the early church shows that it made an impression on the disciples. They had been given an especially close relationship with God, a relationship that gave them guaranteed access to Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; 3:12).

Like Gary and Steve, we learn that we too are adopted – by God. This is not some fuzzy spiritual idea. Our adoption is a real and practical relationship that God has established with us through Jesus. Just as Gary and Steve discovered that they were brothers, we see that Jesus, whom we may have thought of as a friend, is in reality a brother. This idea is as revolutionary today as when Paul first wrote about it to the early church. How different our world could be if every person and every nation could grasp this wonderful truth!

Author: Joseph Tkach

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