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Raising Children Who Don’t Look Like Your Family

Dr. A. Charles Ware


Editor’s Note:

In this fourth article of a five-part Adoption series on the BCC Grace and Truth blog, Charles Ware considers how a biblical view of race can help an adopted child accept the sovereign will of God in their life. In other contributions to the mini-series, Kyle Johnston offers three considerations for the family considering adoption, Andrew Rogers considers how parenting styles affect the way adopted children perceive themselves, Steve Viars discusses blending a family of adopted and biological children, and Russell Moore encourages prospective adoptive families to examine their motivations for and commitment to adoption.

Recently, several people have asked for tips on how to raise an adopted child whose physical appearance is obviously different from the adopting parents’ family, church, and community. Parenting is challenging, even with our biological children. Adoption has its share of unique challenges, as well. So-called cross-racial adoptions raise more questions, especially in a racialized society.

It may be helpful to consider how a biblical view of race might help an adopted child accept the sovereign will of God in his life. We should encourage adopted children not to conform to the world’s view of race but instead be transformed by renewing their minds. We can create a culture that would allow adopted children to discover that the will of God for them is good, acceptable, and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2).

An Unbiblical Concept of Race Can Confuse Adopted Children

Racial identity is baked into many cultures. Race is addressed in our medical history, marketing, politics, and identity. The web of racial identity can bind us so tightly in the world’s concept of race that we are unable to grasp the transforming truth of God’s Word that there is one race—the human race. Even more devastating is that we can be blinded to the liberating truth that in Christ, Christians are one new race.

A Biblical Concept of Race Can Help an Adoptive Child with Identity

As biblical counselors, we must skillfully help adoptive parents free their children from conformity to the world and to be transformed by the truth through the renewing of their minds. Can biblical truth help adoptive parents of children of a different race to guide their children to find peace and accept the love of their adoptive family? Ultimately, the child will decide with whom they identify, but we can create a culture through a biblical view of race that clarifies one’s options. Several biblical truths need to be affirmed throughout our children’s lives.

The Bible Affirms One Race—the Human Race We need to affirm the biblical truth that there is only one race—the human race. As humans, all of us bear the image of God and have dignity and worth. Every shade of color, ethnicity, nationality, language, and people group is part of the human race. We have one Creator (Gen. 1:26-27) and one set of ancestors, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:20).

The Biblical Concept of Race Affirms That the Human Race Is Sinful We must likewise affirm that the human race is sinful (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). Internationally, humans have used the concept of race to dehumanize people groups in order to justify great injustice and genocide. Germany, Rwanda, South Africa, Cambodia, and the United States of America all have a history stained by sinful beliefs and actions concerning race. Children should be taught this truth in an age-appropriate manner.

The Biblical Concept of Race Affirms That There Are Various People Groups We must affirm that there are various ethnic or people groups (Matt. 28:19; Rev. 5:9). Individuals of the same ethnic or people group have different cultures depending upon their economic, educational, and social status during their upbringing (1 Cor. 9:20-22).

Parents should educate themselves and expose their children to their ethnic group’s various cultures as well as others via books, videos, trips, support groups, and other means. They should also visit, volunteer to serve, or possibly join a healthy multicultural church or ministry where there are other Christians who look like their child—maybe even families that look like their multicultural family.

Parents Should Model Gratitude for Our Adoptive Children We should model our gratitude to God for His sovereignty in bringing our children into our family. We should find creative and various ways to demonstrate our appreciation to God for bringing our children into our family. Were they an answer to our prayers? How did God bring them into our lives? How are they enriching our lives?

Parents Should Model Love for Our Adoptive Children We should model unconditional love. We should create a safe environment for our children to ask questions about their biological parents and their ethnic background. We must not be offended if they want to explore what their life would have been like if they were with their biological parents. We must be wise and loving in our responses to their questions.

If they choose to identify with the culture of their ethnic background rather than the culture in which you raised them, continue to love them. Remind them that Jesus does not command us to change our color, ethnic background, or language but to love one another the way He loved us (John 13:34-35). The most critical factor in our identity is not our race, but God’s love for us and His love demonstrated through us.

The Biblical Concept of Race Affirms Our Ultimate Hope Is in the Gospel We must affirm that humanity’s ultimate hope is in the transcending and transforming truth that in Christ we are one new race and family, composed of humans from every color, nation, language, and tribe. This is only possible through the gospel (Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Pet. 2:9)! We must encourage adopted children to embrace and cherish their oneness in Christ above all.

God Does Not Have Any Grandchildren—Our Adoptive Children Must Choose Finally, remember that God does not have any grandchildren. We can model and teach, but our children must choose. Only they can decide to present themselves as a living sacrifice and refuse to be conformed to the world but rather be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Our role is to provide biblical teaching on the gospel and race. We pray that our adoptive children would make the choice that leads to them believing the will of God to be good, acceptable, and perfect. And we pray they would accept the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God in placing them in a family that looks different from them. We are one race—one sinful race, united by grace in one new race through the cross.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What are some tips you would share with a family raising an adopted child who does not look like their family?

  2. What resources would you recommend to such a family?

  3. Do you know of any Bible-based support groups for such a family?


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