Your Life Speaks
Your children will do what you do, not what you say. Other familiar ways of saying the same thing are, actions speak louder than words, and more is caught than taught.
Generally speaking, I agree with these statements. Not to diminish the significance of verbally teaching our children the faith, the benefit of these statements is that they remind us that our actions teach our children what we really believe.
This is a difficult reminder for me. I regularly see my children sinning only to realize they learned that particular behavior from me. The sin of their lives points to the sin in mine and I don’t like what I see. Our sin looks so much uglier in our children than it does in us.
Ultimately, this sin problem my children and I have has but one solution, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The best goal a Christian parent could ever have isn’t to have obedient children, but rather to exemplify the gospel of grace to their children, for when our children see God’s loving grace overcome our sin, they see a gracious and realistic path they too can follow.
If our children learn nothing else from us, they should see the gospel. They should see a sinner who lives under no condemnation (Romans 8:1). They should see someone who has given up trying to control everything in his life and serves the Kingdom of God instead (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 6:24,33), and the simplicity serving one God brings to life (Philippians 1:21). They should catch glimpses of what fearlessness looks like when fear would steal the hearts of ordinary men (Exodus 14:13).
They should see in increasing measure all of the fruits of the Spirit because these are the fruits of the gospel in our lives. These are gifts from God that He’s growing in us as we are sanctified through life. If our children see these things increasing in measure over the lifetime of their sinful parents they will see the grace of gospel.
Forget trying to live a perfect life before your children, or pretending you do. The glory of God’s grace will shine all the brighter when they know the struggle against your sin is as real as theirs.
As hard as it may be, when you sin in the presence of your children, repent in the presence of your children. And then go on living the grace-filled life of the gospel, one that shows them how imperfectly it’s done and yet how God’s forgiveness is complete and his pleasure with us isn’t wrapped up in our performance.
Living life out in the open, being honest and vulnerable with our children, will open the door to a gold mine of conversations as they will then see that it’s safe to talk with you. In you they will see a picture of Christ who came down to us, took on our humanity, and dealt with temptations like we face. They’ll see the gospel of grace at work in you and by His grace they’ll embrace it as their own.
This post first appeared in Every Thought Captive magazine. Subscribe HERE.