Your Child is a Sinner

And they need true grace.


There is some popular parenting advice out there these days that claims when small children act out, they aren’t actually being “naughty” or doing anything wrong, they are just trying to come to terms with their place in the world, and perhaps finding some aspect of that challenging.

This parenting advice says that they don’t need discipline, they just need your love and understanding and gentle guidance.

As Christian Mums, we always need to weigh parenting advice carefully against the Bible to see if it is consistent with the gospel, or opposed to the gospel.

The problem with this new parenting advice is that it is based on the philosophy that humans are basically good at heart. And this is a denial of the truth we see in the Bible, that humans are sinful at heart, even from birth.

I definitely agree that children need our love, understanding and gentle guidance, but because they are inherently sinful, those things alone will not cut it. You cannot love a child into being a good person – you are not God.

Sometimes I struggle with this parenting philosophy too. I’m tempted to make excuses for my kids’ sinfulness, blaming it on tiredness, hunger or over-stimulation. Those things certainly make self-control harder (even for me, as an adult!).

But how does God treat me when, in my tiredness, I lash out with harsh words to my husband? Does God say, “Oh, don’t worry about it – you’re only speaking harshly because you’re tired. All you need is a good night sleep.”?

No. He responds with gentle, loving correction. “You are tired right now, and that makes it harder to control yourself. Instead of leaning on yourself for the strength to do the right thing, you should lean on my grace. I have all you need.”

You see, the Bible teaches us that our actions are the overflow of our heart. No one can “make” us shout in anger, if the anger wasn’t already in our hearts. No one can “make” our children snatch a toy in selfishness if the selfishness wasn’t already in their hearts.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

…the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18

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Sin, at it’s heart, is rebellion against God. To say that our children are inherently sinful means that they are naturally set against God in their hearts, and the actions that spring forth from this rebellion are opposed to what God has set out in his law.

No one, on their own, can stop sinning because it is in our nature. And although I don’t do it perfectly, keeping this in mind has great benefits in my attitude to my children.

  • It means I’m not shocked by their sinfulness. When one of the kids comes out with a tantrum over not getting their way or shouts at me in anger, I don’t think “Where did that come from?!?” I know where it came from – their hearts.
  • I don’t take their bad behaviour personally. I know that they aren’t struggling with sin because of my failure as a parent, but because of their sin nature. I let them own their own behaviour, and then point them to the One who can help them to overcome it.
  • I don’t think I’m better than them. I can relate to them as a fellow sinner in need of God’s grace. And I can say this to them too! “Mummy needs Jesus to help her do the right thing.” Just the other day, my daughter said, “Mummy, maybe you can pray that God would help you not to yell at us today.” It was a real bitter-sweet moment! I might be a little further along the road than them, but we are on the same road.

 

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Comparing Bible translations 🙂


 

My husband and I read something once that said when your spouse apologises to you for doing something wrong, you should resist the urge to respond with “It’s okay.” The reason for this is, saying “it’s okay” is saying that what they did wasn’t really wrong at all. If they actually did something wrong, it’s much better to say, “I forgive you”. This acknowledges that they wronged you and by extending forgiveness, you are both agreeing to leave that wrong behind and move forward in grace. Saying “it’s okay” merely papers over the offence; it doesn’t actually bring you closer to each other.

True grace can only come when sin is looked at and acknowledged, unflinchingly. Making excuses for our kids or explaining away their bad behaviour with external circumstances might make us feel like we are being kind and extending grace, but this is not true grace.

True grace says, “Your heart is hopelessly wicked, but God can change you.”

True grace says, “Sometimes you do the wrong thing, when you know the right thing to do, but I forgive you.”

True grace says, “Come. Meet my Saviour, Jesus – I need Him just as much as you.”

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Stunning sunrise out my kitchen window the other day.

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Empty

This is a poem I wrote last year when I was struggling with my milk supply, among other breastfeeding issues. There’s nothing quite like the torment of being your baby’s only source of nutrition and not being able to provide that! (Yes, I did try formula – several times. He wouldn’t take it.)

I wrote this poem as I reflected on the spiritual dimension of my struggles. I wasn’t ready to share back when I wrote it because it was all too sensitive. I was thinking about trying to finish it, to give more “resolution”. But I’ve decided to leave it as is. Because we don’t always get answers to prayer immediately. And sometimes there are periods of really wrestling with faith, and no resolution in sight.


 

His furious face nuzzles my breast,

Searching

Searching

But

Finding not.

Dried up,

My hope is

Gone.

Father, where are you?

Where streams of living

Milk

Once flowed

Now only soft barrenness remains. 

I see you little one,

How I long to fill you,

To see you satisfied,

But there you remain,

Empty,

Mad,

We are exhausted.

I send up desperate cries,

Searching,

Searching for faith but

Finding  not.

Longing to be filled –

My breasts and my heart –

But remaining empty.

 

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When Christmas Time Sucks

My daughter has a flair for the dramatic (she gets it from her Daddy).

The other day she declared, out of nowhere, “Mummy, if we do the wrong thing then Christmas will be RUINED!”

(Actually, now that I think of it, it kind of sounds like the “be good or else” Santa propaganda that is everywhere this time of year… I jest. Kind of 😉 )

But we had a big chat about how you can’t ruin Christmas by doing the wrong thing. And in fact, when we do the wrong thing (or sin, as we call it), that just proves why we need Christmas.

I reminded her that Christmas is about God sending Jesus to become a man and take the punishment for our sins so that we can be His friends again.

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I think sometimes adults can feel like Christmas is ruined too. Not because we did something bad (necessarily), but because of the bad things happening around us and to us.

Christmas makes the suffering in our lives so much more apparent because it’s meant to be a joyful, happy time. And when we’re not feeling that, the contrast to how (we perceive) everyone else is feeling is quite stark.

 

I heard a great Colin song the other day, called Jesus Christ is Born. The middle verse kind of addresses Christmas disappointment for kids (I’ll include it because it’s funny), but the last verse speaks to adults. It made me think of my friends and family who are going through some really hard trials as we approach Christmas this year.

If Aunty Nance gave you new pants

A size or two too small

If that new toy they gave to Troy

Just drives you up the wall

If someone else got what you want

And what you want is gone

Just take a breath and don’t forget

That Jesus Christ is born


Jesus Christ is born

Jesus Christ is born

Hope will shine at Christmas time

Cos Jesus Christ is born

Well life and friends and family

Can somehow seem to crash

Sin and sadness creep around

And find good stuff to trash

But God sent his son Jesus

On a mighty rescue plan

A Saviour in a manger

In a shed in Bethlehem

 

Your circumstances can’t ruin Christmas because the hope of Christmas is bigger than your circumstances.

The hope of Christmas is that God made a way to save you from all the pain and suffering of this world (pain and suffering that we have all participated in creating).

The wonder of Christmas is that He chose to do this by sending His son into that same pain and suffering.

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Once you belong to Christ, there is nothing that can ruin that.

Not your husband leaving.

Not a cancer diagnosis.

Not estranged family.

Not chronic health problems.

Not Christmas morning disappointment.

Not the loss of a child.

Not starvation, or homelessness, or having your whole family killed in a brutal war.

 

 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.