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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

The Down-to-Earth Gospel for Parenting

Parenting Series - The Down-to-Earth Gospel for Parenting

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part One in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on biblical parenting. In addition to today’s post by Keri Seavey, you’ll enjoy posts by Nicolas Ellen, Sherry Allchin, and Todd Hardin.

Grace Greater Than Our Sins

It all led up to this moment. The endless, wearisome job of training, nurturing, and love that we call parenting is often wrought with little fruit. Discouraged, bone-tired parents look through bloodshot eyes for scraps of evidence in their kids that all of this exhausting work actually accomplished something… anything! As sibling fights continue to rage, attitudes flare up like gas in flames, after you have spoken the same guiding words more times than you can count, you wonder if you have utterly and irreversibly failed as a parent to your children.

But then, this night! It all seemed worth it after this night. What happened on this glorious night? My oldest, teenage son confessed to some sin he had willingly engaged in. Why would I consider this night, this moment of confession, a groundbreaking moment in our parenting journey? Just this….he did not get caught, but rather freely confessed.

He walked sheepishly into our bedroom and timidly asked, “Mom and Dad, can we talk?” He proceeded to openly confess his sins, speak frankly about his conviction, and inform us regarding the steps he had taken to make things right in his life.

As we asked probing questions, he spoke about his distaste for sin and his realization that he cares far too much about what people think about him. He talked, with joy, about His relationship with Jesus being restored as the burden of guilt and shame had been lifted through confession and forgiveness. We discussed strategies to help him fight sin in the future. We talked much about the gospel, reminding him of how it frees us to live honestly before God and others.

We told him, as we often have in the past, that we need Christ’s forgiveness just as much as he does. He thanked us after we prayed together. He walked out of our bedroom unaware that this mother’s heart was about to burst with gratitude to God for this beautiful moment.

Providing a Context for Confession

News flash! Our kids are sinners. This may seem so elementary to the mature Christian ear that we rush past it as we hunt for more useful bits of parenting advice to help us along the way. Interestingly, it is often the first bit of theology that we inadvertently kick to the curb in our parenting endeavors. How else do you account for the disbelief that many parents express when sin rears its ugly head in the lives of their children? “We didn’t raise her this way!” or “He knows better!” often comes from the lips of shocked parents who are thrown off of their game when sin leaks from their children’s hearts. Maybe we ought to don some rubber gloves to rummage through the seemingly impractical bits of theology that is collecting dust at the curb.

In embracing a robust theology of sin in our homes, we provide a context for gospel fruit to flourish: honest confession, forgiveness through the blood of Christ, heartfelt repentance, peaceable reconciliation, re-stabilizing restoration, repeat. This gospel cycle starts with having something to confess. However, there are several temptations parents will face in exchange for the cold, hard truth that sin is alive and kicking in our children’s fallen hearts.

It’s Tempting to Believe…

  •  “Our family does not do that!” Many parents fall prey to the lie that we can discipline the sin right out of our children. Of course, we have a call to teach our children about the evils of sin, to warn them about its consequences, and to guide them away from its luring temptations. Children can and do learn to avoid sin for many different motives. However, we must parent realistically and biblically regarding the depths of their fallenness and its ramifications. Rather than unintentionally presenting the unbiblical fallacy of perfectionism with self-righteous declarations about how our family does not do (fill in the blank), we ought to wisely take advantage of sinful moments to present a gospel sufficient enough to cover every sin they will face. We ought to talk frankly about how deceitful sin is as it presents to us alternatives to Jesus for our happiness. We ought to be honest about how easy it can be to fall prey to sin’s lies. We ought to assume that our children will lose some of their battles, given their fallenness and immaturity. Though we may fear a fatalism that seems to expect or give license to sin; instead we are providing a context for authentic gospel transformation. If we treat sin like something that “this family does not do,” our kids will have no category for the sins they will inevitably face in themselves. Worse, we are limiting their opportunities to bask in the transforming forgiveness and grace that the gospel offers.
  • “I would never do that!” With good desires that our children look to us for guidance through life’s obstacles, we may be tempted to hide our own weakness and sin. Rather than celebrating God’s grace toward sinners, we may fear that our children will abuse such grace as they see the outpouring of the mercy of God in our lives despite our sin. Juxtaposing our children’s failures, we choose to present ourselves as ever-the-strong conquerors of sin as guiding models. Unfortunately, this often results in our children walking away from us rather than toward us when they begin to intelligently struggle with sin. Feeling weak and unsuccessful, they wonder what went wrong with them. Conditioned to view us not as understanding allies who comprehend the bloody battle with sin, they struggle to relate to us. Worse, they may learn to simply hide their sin and weakness behind a self-righteous, unstable façade of strength. Though it may seem counterintuitive to let down your guard to reveal personal sin to your children, in doing so you’re teaching them not to depend on themselves, you, or any man as their example. Rather, you are pointing your children toward the sturdy, robust, never-failing resources of Christ when weak.
  • It’s not my child’s fault!” Desperate to believe our children are innocent victims of sinful outside influences, it’s easier to play the blame game when our children get caught up in sin. The alternative business of facing their sinful hearts head-on seems much more risky and daunting. Blaming outside influences stunts our children’s opportunities to deal honestly with their own corrupt hearts in a gospel context. It allows their sins to fester and grow unfettered, while also allowing our stubborn, parental pride to stay rooted in place as well. Because we have the all-sufficient, strong gospel that provides a remedy for such sin, we need not be lazy or afraid to face what comes from their hearts. Rather than blame-shifting, let’s give them the opportunity to be humbled by their sin in order to be amazed by the lavish mercy of Jesus that covers their sin with His own blood.

Preparation for Life

What do our kids need from us in preparation for the journey of life? There are so many things that I aim to impart to my children before they venture off on their own. Yet, I am convinced what they most need is the full-bodied gospel, which includes a down-to-earth theology of sin.

They need to learn to travel often down the gospel road of confession, forgiveness and freedom in Christ. The night my son confessed, I felt as though he was one step closer to being truly prepared for living a gospel-dependent life in this broken world.

Join the Conversation

In what ways have the truths of the gospel impacted your parenting?

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