Do your kids think that God is only pleased with them if they obey? Do your kids think that the gospel means that they must be good so God will love them? Do your kids think that they must be good for you to like them, for you to love and delight in them?
To answer these questions listen to the way your children talk about the gospel. You may be thinking that children seldom talk about the gospel. But actually, they do. Listen to your children talk. Listen to what makes them happy or sad. Listen to what they say about how you love them:
“Mommy, I’m sorry I make you angry.”
“Daddy, I won’t do it again.”
“Why is everybody mad at me?”
“Do you think God is mad at me?”
“He hurt me, so I hit him back.”
“I am sorry that I am not good enough to make you happy.”
“I’ll be good, I promise. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“I try and try and try but I just can’t do what you want me to.”
“I guess I am just not good enough.”
“Mommy, I just can’t do it. I try but I just can’t.”
Have you ever heard words like these? These statements indicate what your children think about the gospel. These kinds of statements show that performance (not grace) forms the basis of how your children are attempting to relate to you and to God.
Are you able to delight in your children simply because God gave them to you? Or must your children behave to earn your delight and approval? God loves you because you belong to him and not because you obey. Your children need this same assurance.
You must show the power of the gospel to your children. When your children complain that they can’t do what God wants, you must seize the opportunity to respond with the powerful gospel of grace.
This is your opportunity to say, “Sweetheart, I know that you can’t obey by yourself. This is why Jesus died. He did what you cannot do. He can help you to trust Him. Let’s ask Jesus to forgive you and help you love Him by the power of His gospel.”
No one can earn God’s favor. Don’t put your children in the position of earning your approval. Love them because God gave them to you. With tender-hearted kindness love and forgive them just as God in Christ forgave you.