I want my children (3 girls at the moment) to understand the gospel. Here is what I mean by gospel parenting and how it works in practice (or attempt!).
We want children to have a clear understanding that their sin is wrong, hurts themselves and others and ultimately personally offends God.
Parenting is not easy. It requires lots of time, constant involvement and relational building to bring about a loving environment and expected goals. Therefore, in confronting sin parents must not simply say, “You did wrong. You are wrong. You are punished.” Discipline and confronting sin as a parent means bringing a child to this realization on their own. Asking questions aids in this result. “What did you do? Why did you do it? Why do you think that was right to do at the time?” Through a series of questions a parent can get at the root of a child’s heart and help them see their sin. At this point, addressing the heart and root of the problem is more important than changing behavior. When they can view themselves and their sin as brokenness, they can then begin to look where to find being fixed and healed.
Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death…”
We want children to have a clear understanding where to turn for sin.
As parents, we must realize not only do our children have broken hearts but so do we. Where do we turn for our sin and brokenness? In gospel parenting, we turn to the grace of God. Point them to Jesus, His accomplishment of an obedient, righteous life and a sacrificial payment for sin on the cross. Then show that Jesus invites everyone to forgiveness and eternal life because of His resurrection. Certainly, that is theologically weighty but it is profoundly practical as well. It means our instruction and discipline is not for the purpose of punishment but restoration, to God and to others. Perhaps the most practical application is helping children learn to confess rather than hide their sin. Sample questions for children may be: “Since you sinned, what should we do to fix this? How do you think Jesus and others feel based on what you have done? What should we tell God about our sin?” Indeed, this is a learned process but the point is clear – confession of sin conquers concealing sin.
Psalms 32:1-5 “1 How happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! 2 How happy is the man the Lord does not charge with sin, and in whose spirit is no deceit! 3 When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin.”
Proverbs 28:13 “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.”
1 John 1:8-10 “8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
We want children to personally repent and reconcile with Jesus and others.
Teaching children about the brokenness of sin is not an abstract idea but one that is personal. Children must learn to hear, see, feel and taste that sin is sickening; like a poison to a person’s body and soul. When children experience this, they can learn the healing that comes from the gospel. Biblical repentance means not only turning away from something but also a turning toward something different. This is different than simple behavior modification – “Stop doing that!”
Reminds me of this:
So, a child can learn to pray and talk with God – personally repenting of sin. Parents can help, “Let’s talk to God about what happened and ask for forgiveness…”, then lead the child to pray, helping where needed. Additionally, they can also learn to go to others for reconciliation. Parents may ask the child, “Now that we have asked for God’s forgiveness, to whom else should we apologize? Is there anything else that we can do to show we love God and others?” This process is a God-ward repentance and learning to live from the inside-out or from vertical to horizontal.
Discipline should be based on grace and learning to walk in right relationship with God and others.
Matthew 5:23-24 “23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 6:14-15 “14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”
James 5:16 “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”
1 Peter 4:8 “8 Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
– – – – –
Here is a real life example conversation I had with my daughter. To note, all my children are under the age of 4, so it is still a process of teaching and learning – both for them and us!
Situation: Daughter 1 (D1) hits/kicks Daughter 2 because she took a toy.
Dad: “D1, stop. Why did you do that?”
*Note: Sometimes you need to immediately stop the behavior for the safety of others! Then, you can proceed to the heart.
D1: “I didn’t do it.”
Dad: “D1, come here to me.”
D1: Slowly walks over.
Dad: “I saw what you did. Why are you lying?”
D1: Shrugs shoulders, eye avoidance.
Dad: “Look at me in the eyes. What did you do?”
D1: “I kicked her because she was taking something I had in my hand.”
Dad: “So, why did you lie to me?”
D1: Shrugs shoulders, bats eyes with smile and tries to cuddle.
Dad: “D1, we need to talk first. Look at me in the eyes. Lying is wrong. Do you know the Bible teaches that when we confess (tell the truth about) our sin that we find forgiveness; but when we hide and cover up our sin we don’t get grace? So, should you confess or lie?
D1: Eats banana and speaks with mouth full. “Kaahnwedd.”
Dad: “I cannot understand you with your mouth full. Finish and answer please.”
Dad: “Thank you. So, let’s confess to God. Let’s pray [hugging D1], ‘Dear Jesus, please forgive D1 for kicking her sister and for lying about it. Thank you that we know you will forgive because you died on the cross for all of our sin. Help our family to love you and to love each other. Amen.’ So, what else should we do?”
D1: “D2, I’m sorry for kicking you.”
Dad: “Do you want to give her a hug?”
D1 & D2 hug.
I wish it were always this easy sometimes.