- 21 June, 2010
- 6 Comments
We are continuing to explore the idea of how we can create healthy behavioral expectations for our kids without teaching them that their acceptance is based on their own goodness. In our desire to raise good “Christian” kids, we can inadvertently instill ideas that are actually very contrary to the gospel, ideas that may leave them struggling to experience the love of God for many years, often for the rest of their lives.
We looked last time at the foundational understanding that our behavioral expectations do not come from some distant, unrelated God who is laying down a bunch of arbitrary rules that he seems to make up along the way. These behavioral expectations are directly related to the fact that God in His very nature is completely good. He is more “good” than we can possibly imagine. It is not just an attribute of His. It is His very nature! And we are created in His image and are called to bear his image. This is where we begin to truly understand the essence of the conversation.
While the Bible begins with the story of man being created in the image of God, it doesn’t take long for man to distort that image. Pretty much the rest of the bible is a story about people who fail to be “good” and God’s interaction with their brokenness. We have not left the story. The struggle that we feel is the fact that God continually calls us to bear his image. It is how we are created; it is what we are designed to be. He doesn’t back down from that. He fights for us to be the people he created us to be. At the same time He knows that on our own, we will not be perfect. He’s actually far more aware of and open about our brokenness than we are.
Failure is a huge part of our story. At times it feels as if God is calling us to be really good people and then telling us that is impossible. But for God, there is no contradiction here because he is fighting for us in all of this. He has provided, very specifically, for our weakness and for our continuing failures. His acceptance of us is not based on our ability to be good enough; it is based on his provision for our weakness, specifically the death and resurrection of Christ. Our trust in Christ is and will be the only way that we are accepted by God. It will never be our good behavior, even if our behavior gets a whole lot better and we start to feel O.K. about ourselves.
God will continue to call us to be the people He created us to be. Because of His great love for us, He will not leave us to ourselves in this broken state. He is continually inviting and empowering us to change. This is where the “following rules” vs. “image bearing” ideas differ radically. For those who have trusted Christ, we are no longer trying to be good enough to please God. We are trusting Him to renew us into his image, and once again this is a very good thing!
Even in the midst of God’s incredible grace to us, failure is never far away, and it won’t be far away from our kids. And while God has dealt very openly and specifically with our own failure, I think we really struggle to be that open and honest about sin with our kids. In reality, sin and failure to behave properly are likely to be pretty dominant conversations in most of our homes, what I should probably say is that we struggle on our end to hold certain expectations while at the same time holding an understanding of inevitable failure. We can easily adopt a mentality that demands our kids meet certain expectations but give them no context or understanding for the fact that they will eventually fail. When they do fail, do they know what to do with that? Will they just conclude that they are bad? Will they just be confused? Our failure is something that can either drive us away from God or draw us incredibly near. Our own weakness is at the very heart of the gospel.
You can begin now to invite your kids to be honest about their sin with God and find solace there rather than shame. It is a reality that they are beginning to see show up more and more in their lives as they mature, and it can definitely be confusing. You can help them understand how to process this in healthy ways. And yes, kids can use this to manipulate and try to avoid punishment, and you will have to use discernment there, but I am convinced that it is for more beneficial to help them understand this now.
My hope is that you will begin thinking of ways you can incorporate this into the life of your family. The most significant thing that we can do is to model it. How have your kids seen you deal with failure? Do you generally try to hide it or are you open about your own failures? Have you ever talked with them about how to deal with sin? Do you give them the general perception that sin is a rare thing or do they have an understanding that it is a very real part of life?
It would be good to hear from you about some ways that you are already doing this in your family and how your kids are responding. We will finish this series next time by looking at what it means to not just shape a child’s behavior but to shepherd their heart. I look forward to hearing from you!