Christianity is actually an interesting mix of grace and work. Step outside of any preconceived ideas and take a look at the New Testament with fresh eyes. When you do, it becomes obvious we cannot save ourselves and we are saved only by and through the grace of God.
On the other hand, Jesus and the disciples worked like crazy. Yes, they attended the occasional dinner party and fished from time to time, but they also worked hard. They were constantly traveling from place to place teaching, healing and serving others. The Apostle Paul even continued to run his tent making business while he preached. Even the early Christians were so busy working deacons were created to help handle some of the work load that had fallen on the elders.
The problem in life is that most people ride the pendulum. If they believed work was required too much when growing up, then they preach only grace – Christians can sit back and have fun – no work expected. If you grew up in an environment with too much grace, then your pendulum probably swung the other way. The truth lies in the balance. We are saved by God’s grace, but God wants and expects us to work in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons – for our own good and the good of the Kingdom.
If you have ever broken something that was precious to you, you know how horrible a mistake can make you feel. On the other hand, Satan can make sins feel fun and delay consequences until we are in so deep it feels impossible to get out of the mess our sins have created. If our children are going to be faithful Christians, it is so vitally important they understand the difference between sins and mistakes.
So what do our kids need to understand about sin and mistakes?
One of the things I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he saw past the actions of people and understood what was in their hearts. Their actions might have been sinful, but if they had a tender heart towards God, He forgave them. If their actions appeared godly, but their hearts were full of ugliness, Jesus would rebuke them.
We will never totally know the hearts of anyone other than our own. In Fighting for Your Child’s Heart, I gave you several ways to attempt to assess the heart of your child. Whether or not you feel you know your child’s heart, there are specific characteristics you want to do everything possible to firmly plant in the heart of your child. I am sure if you asked twenty Christians, you would get twenty slightly different lists, but here are the ones we worked very hard to grow in the heart of our daughter:
Recently, several parents have mentioned they don’t believe in consequences for young children who disobey. Evidently, everyone under the age of thirty took a vote and decided consequences were old fashioned and made children angry. Unfortunately, they forgot to check the ultimate book of godly wisdom – Proverbs, before voting. I am not referring to the infamous “spare the rod, spoil the child” verse (which by the way is a misquote – see Proverbs 13:24). Even if you ignore that particular verse, Proverbs is filled with admonitions for young people to embrace correction and reproof as a way to grow and become wise and godly.
These young parents are absolutely correct though. Punishment, correction and reproof tends to make people angry. In a very few cases, some people do go overboard, become abusive and encourage rage in their children. I do not think God in any way condones that sort of behavior. There are too many other verses pointing out the amazing love parents have for their children to assume God approves of parents abusing them.
I’ll never forget a particular lunch out with a friend when our daughter was a toddler. Something didn’t go my child’s way and she was definitely thinking about her best course of action. Suddenly, she quickly settled down and the crisis was averted without changing my decision and giving in to her request. My friend looked at me and asked how I did it. At first, I didn’t know what she meant. My friend replied, “I could see her thinking about pitching a fit, but somehow you not only convinced her not to have a tantrum, but that she was perfectly content to obey you.”
I began to analyze why our daughter never pitched a tantrum during her toddler years. Don’t get me wrong, she misbehaved quite a bit (especially at three) and could do her fair share of crying when she was unhappy. She even had to be unwrapped from my legs once or twice as I left her at home with someone else. She never threw a tantrum, though.