My 9 year old son asked me a tough question as I walked out of his bedroom last night.
We had just finished our pre-bed routine, and after a new story from the Bible App for Kids, a couple of sibling pot-shots at his older sister, and a short bedtime prayer, I was reaching for the light switch when his pensive, little brain conjured up this inquiry:
“Dad, sometimes I have bad thoughts run through my head. I can’t make them stop. I try to make them stop, but they just keep coming. How do I make them go away?”
In one short interrogative, my 4th grader stumbled squarely into the greatest issue we face as human beings. Sin isn’t just a list of the bad things that we do, it’s a disease rooted deep inside us.
Last year, I was diagnosed with a blood disorder. The antibodies that normally fight off infection issued a unilateral executive order that the platelets in my blood were now foreign objects that needed to be destroyed. This screwed up reaction causes my blood to clot when it isn’t supposed to. Scabs around a wound stop dangerous bleeding, but scabs floating freely through in the veins and arteries in your head stops….well…life.
I use this analogy to explain sin to my kids. It’s like a blood disease. It’s inside of us. We were born into it. And it isn’t something we can cure by ourselves.
So how do we step into a question like this with our kids? We parent them into grace.
- The Law (God’s holiness) is meant to crush us.
- The Gospel (Jesus’ death and resurrection) raises us up.
- The Holy Spirit (God’s promised gift to the redeemed) empowers us for righteousness.
This is the Good News!
But in our desire to be both perfect and loving parents, we sometimes respond with two unfortunate mistakes. In my son’s case those might look something like this:
It’s okay buddy, God’s love is big. Don’t worry about it.
What?! (Schwartz!) You can’t do that! Exercise some self-control! No television or video games for a month!
Problem #1: Our sin is not okay. Let me say that again. Our. Sin. Is. Not. O. K. Brokenness is part of the human condition, no doubt. And surrendering to the fact that you’re broken is the beginning of hope and healing. But no matter what this culture of tolerance and acceptance is telling you, your sin, my sin, our sin, is not something God overlooks. And it won’t stand up under the weight of God’s holiness. Don’t tell your kids that it will. The solution to our sin is not the removal of God’s standard. Let the Law crush them.
Problem #2: We can’t fix ourselves. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t originate in us, it originates in the work of Christ on our behalf. Sharing Jesus with our kids solely as an example to emulate will do them in. Showing them Jesus as a Savior will bring them life! As Tim Keller so poignantly says it, “The key question in order to change you is not ‘What would Jesus do? but What has Jesus done for you?”
My son stumbled quietly toward a beautiful truth last night. His “blood disorder” was producing bad things in his heart and mind and he knew it was wrong (the Law was beginning to crush him). Where we parent our kids from that point becomes the key question.
The Law crushes. The Gospel raises up. The Spirit empowers.
Let’s parent them into that grace. I wish I always got this right, but I guess that’s why I desperately need this message, too.