Why is it that we are so afraid to give the message of grace to our little ones? We bombard their ears with law on a constant basis. “Obey your parents.” “Remember the golden rule.” “Be kind to everyone.” The list goes on and on… and only rarely gets tempered by mentions of the Gospel. We can’t bring ourselves to tell children that even in the middle of their disobedience, God loves them and sees them as hidden in the righteousness of Christ. We seem to want obedient children—at any cost—rather than Christian ones!
Most Sunday school curricula aren’t any better. On the one day of the week where they really should hear the Good News—that Jesus Christ died for sinners and was raised so that they can be right with God—they hear how they should “be like Daniel” and never stop praying. Or that they should “be like Jonah” and go tell others about God. Or they should “be like Samson” and be willing to give their life to God. Or “be like David” and be a man after God’s own heart. Of course, while they are being told these stories, they get the glossy versions, never hearing what screw-ups all those guys were. They only hear that they were amazing and that “you should be amazing too.”
I think this sort of “do good/be a better kid” legalism is exactly what will “provoke our children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4) or maybe even to pride. You will either get self-righteous, angry kids who actually think they can obey all of God’s laws or you will get kids who become angry and sullen and see how utterly impossible it is to be that good. Both types are likely to run away from such teaching, and ultimately leave the faith.
We must share the Gospel. Our kids must know that they will never be enough or do enough to earn God’s love; that they will forever have to rely on the work of another. They must know that the Good News about what Jesus has done really does apply to every area of their life.
They should know that the fact that Jesus was once a kid, just like them, means that he understands them completely—good and bad.
Our kids should hear the awesome truth that when Jesus died on the cross, every sin that they have ever and will ever commit is paid for, once and for all. God’s beautiful promise to never leave them nor forsake them even when they are at their worst should comfort them daily. As a matter of fact, it was when they were at their worst that God decided he wanted them in his family! They should know that sin is so much more than the bad things we do; that it is who we are at our very core… and yet God loves us still. In other words, our kids should hear that though we are worse than we think, God is better than we dare imagine. This is hard for us to share, because we can barely believe that it’s true for us. We must learn this, everyday, side-by-side with our children.
We think that rules and the law will control our children. Outwardly, they may—for a time—but they can’t solve our kids’ real problem. Our kids need an inward revolution; they need a new heart that can only be given by the Holy Spirit.
May we ever cry out to God for grace for our kids. May we ask the Holy Spirit to give us the help we need in moments during which we teach them about him. May God remind us of the Gospel so that we might share it with our young ones. May we never forget the Good News, and may we, who once were enslaved by the Law, never shackle our children in the chains from which we’ve been freed.
Be sure to check out Jessica's new devotional for families, Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family.
Jessica is an author of several books and a frequent conference speaker. Her heart is to see women, families, and children freed from the bondage of moralism and to live in the truth that in the gospel there is joyful freedom awaiting them. Jess has a Bachelor's Degree in Theology and with her mother, Elyse Fitzpatrick, she co-authored the books Give Them Grace and Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions. She has also written Exploring Grace Together and Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus. Jess believes the truth that salvation is "naked confidence in the mercy of God." She has been married to her high school sweetheart since 1995. Together they have three teenage children.