I have bad news for you, parents. But I’m pretty sure it’s something you already know.
Your child is a sinner.
I recall seeing the cover of a Tabletalk magazine many years ago that featured the chubby face and tousled hair of a beautiful smiling baby nestled into a fuzzy blanket, with the words “Total Depravity” boldly stamped underneath. That about sums it up, right? Cute – yes. Adorable – yes. Heart-melting – yes. But sinful, too? Yep.
It’s a good thing for us all to stop and consider the true nature of our children.
Only when parents first understand that their children are born under the curse of Adam’s sin and in desperate need of the Savior can they then raise their children in the grace of the gospel. It’s not that our children don’t need good manners and lessons in responsibility and training in etiquette and guidance for how to be a dutiful citizen. They do. It’s that none of these things are fit to be a savior, though they could easily become idols. It is true of us and equally true of our children: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we – and our children – were yet sinners, Christ died for us all (Rom 5:8).
We must understand and respond to our children’s sins rightly so that we can be instruments in the Redeemer’s hands to rescue them from their sins.
There are many pitfalls to avoid when we think about our children and their sin:
- We can easily fall into complacency or only operate at a surface level, thinking that our children’s sin is not that bad. Maybe it’s just a self-esteem problem. Maybe it’s just behavior that can be managed. We can operate as moralizers who think that our children need simply to “be good” in order to get their lives right. Compliant children probably don’t really need a Savior, right?
- We can pridefully refuse to take responsibility for the sins of our children. How dare this little person make me look bad by acting out or disobeying! We can refuse the first lesson of parenting: I am insufficient for this parenting gig and need a Savior myself.
- We can become impatient, believing that we ought to be able to see results, like, yesterday. Why this sin again? Why is change so hard? Why is child training so slow? Why is it that, as Cornelius Van Til said of teachers, parents “labor in the dawn of everlasting results”?
- We can become cynical about our children, especially our teenagers. There is a narrative out there in our culture that says that adolescents are hormone-fueled disasters that must be endured. The teen years are about survival, not joy. Teenagers have so much going on in them biologically that they are essentially unreachable, right? Our children know when we approach parenting from a place of despair rather than hope.
Parenting pitfalls abound. I know because I’ve fallen into practically every one of them.
David said of himself in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” What is true of David is true of us all, including our children. All children need the marvelous grace of Christ, and God gave your children to you so that you can live out the gospel before them and train them in grace. Your home is a gospel home, and your children are your mission field.
The good news is truly that – good news. The gospel promises us that Jesus Christ saves young and old alike by His cross and resurrection. The same grace that transforms hardened adult sinners delivers children from their sins and grows them in Christlikeness, too. That is the breeding ground for hope and confidence and joy in parenting.
Classical Christian schools are excellent places for sinful children to spend their days. Secular progressive educators don’t have a true understanding of children (what is a human being, anyway?) and so cannot really provide what children need most. Education makes an excellent idol but a terrible savior. Classical Christian schools understand this and seek to partner with Christian parents to hold up the true Savior, Christ our Lord, before them constantly so that they can trust Him and learn from His Word.
Wake up, parents, and take a good look at your children! Loveable little sinners that they are, they are precious gifts. It is our delight to raise them for Him, and as the author wrote, the days are long and the years are short. The childrearing years are but a vapor, so let’s be clearheaded and honest about their real problem – sin. And then let’s work together (home, school, and church) to maximize every day and every moment to point them to Christ.