Teaching your children to behave is not the gospel!

Posted on May 6, 2013 · Posted in Gospel, Parenting

How compelling is the gospel to your children, to you?

My concern is that intentionally presenting the gospel is not an everyday consideration for most Christian parents. In contrast, what often is presented each day is how well do children perform or behave.  This is easy to do with the rush of busy schedules.  However, when life is about behavior then the gospel is absent! The gospel is not about behaving properly.

As this pertains to adults, we have no trouble applying this truth. Someone who has lived a selfish life, has been full of pride, has committed any number of sins, and finally reaches out to the good news of the gospel, is not told to wait until his behavior changes. Those in the church community reach out to him and tell him that accepting the gospel is not about a change in behavior. It is about a changed life. Life flows from trusting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Even if this message is rejected at first, faithful Christians continue to point to the work of Christ and not one’s performance as the hope of salvation. Nothing less than a heart change, not a behavior change, is the goal. Yes, obedience is crucial, but a new heart must be the focus.

But with children the focus can easily switch to performance and behavior. The unintended message is when you perform well enough, you can begin to think about being a Christian. Such an idea would never be urged upon an adult considering becoming a Christian. Yet to countless children in Christian homes, this is exactly the message they receive.

The gospel is not seen as a place of rest and hope. The gospel is seen as a level of performance that must be achieved. This is the experience of many children in good homes where the parents earnestly believe the gospel themselves. But, the time must be taken to see though the eyes of children. From their perspective, life can become a blur of commands, frustrations, discipline, and bible verses all mixed together. The unintentional message children may perceive is that I must be better, I must perform better, I must behave better. Jesus becomes a task master rather than a savior.

Parents, consider carefully if the invitation of Christ to those who are weary and burdened is the same gospel presentation that you make daily to your children. Christ offers rest, gentleness, and humility. Is this your message to your children each day? Is Christ seen as the One who offers rest and hope?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.