Being a believer in Christ means I believe the story that God sent his Son to be born as a baby, live the life I was meant to live in perfect love of God and others but don’t (can’t), and die as the only God-Man who’s death could absorb all the judgement of God against me and live. I believe Jesus is who he said he is. I believe the gospel. But what does believing the gospel look like in my everyday life? What does believing the gospel do to me? How does it effect my life? What does believing the gospel do when say, hypothetically (trying to preserve some privacy… for a friend), your child gets suspended from school?
I’ve found especially in the last 3 or 4 years raising my sons that my hope in the gospel effects how I respond to situations where they have done something wrong. Every time my kids screw up I have an opportunity to show them what Joseph showed his brothers, and what Jesus showed me: grace and truth.
Without the gospel, my parenting would only be an effort to manage their behavior. Notice I said only. Believing the gospel doesn’t mean I don’t manage their behavior. But it’s not the only motive behind my parenting. Because of the gospel my aim in parenting is not to manage their behavior and raise them to be good citizens that make me proud. Because of the gospel my authority in parenting is not from me, or the government, or even my child. It’s from Christ. I don’t think in terms of what makes me look good or bad or what my kids will do or not do that will be good or bad for them or me or society. Not that I don’t want them to do good things that make me proud, but my thinking about parenting isn’t born from those tenants. Because of the gospel, my aim in parenting is speaking truth into their lives, pointing them the direction of Jesus, and living a life laid down to build them up. Because of the gospel I speak truth and grace into their lives.
So when they screw up big time, the gospel means I can say something like Joseph said to his brothers. I can say, “What you did was wrong. And I love you.” The exposing of what they did wrong, the handing down of a consequence, as well as the imparting of grace, forgiveness, and assurance of love and acceptance all say that. They all say gospel. They point my kids to a hope greater than my or their ability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and “be good!” The gospel of Christ is the greatest hope for any person, including moms and their kids who will at some point, screw up big time.
My kids see me screw up. They hear me fly off the handle in anger without good cause or pout like a 43 year old woman because I’m not being cared for the way I want to be. And the gospel allows me to sit on the bed next to them and tell them, “I was wrong and I’m sorry. I need Jesus!” And when they screw up, because of the gospel, less and less do I feel angry, offended, ashamed, embarrassed or disgusted. Because of the gospel I feel more and more a confidence that says, “I’m accepted. Discipline is love. And I want to show you that acceptance and love.”
The gospel doesn’t cause me to poopoo my kids screw ups. It doesn’t cause me to ignore their wrongs or sugar coat them. It doesn’t cause me to enable them to keep doing what’s wrong either. The gospel allows me to hand out firm discipline and boundaries that say, “You are my child! I love you! I want what’s best for you! And therefore you will suffer these consequences.” The gospel enables me to expose their mess, not let them hide from it, and walk with them through the hard consequences that come. And when I say, walk with them through hard consequences, that may mean staying home with them while their suspended from school, creating a day’s worth of studying for home and work. It means laying down my life.
When Joseph’s brothers knew they were in for it cause they screwed up big time and their dad wasn’t there to shield them from Joseph’s rightful anger, Joseph foreshadowed the gospel by saying:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Genesis 50:20
That’s the message the gospel brings to people who find themselves having screwed up big time. It doesn’t excuse or ignore the evil done. But it looks to God. It looks to what he’s done and it brings hope to others. Jesus said he came to give his life as a ransom for many. He laid down his life to save us. And when our kids do wrong, we get to be the messengers of Jesus who lay down our lives pointing them to Jesus.