|Posted by thethousandmarch on October 30, 2012 at 3:05 AM|
When I was a teenager I thought I was a relatively mature and upstanding young man (I probably was, relative being the key word). Over the years I have grown more aware of my shortcomings and do not think of myself as highly as I once did. And to be honest I’m rather embarrassed of my younger self. I’m sure my character flaws are still more apparent to others than they are to myself, yet I do imagine that I have developed a slightly more realistic understanding of who I am. And this has not resulted in self-loathing – I’m actually much more accepting of myself these days than I was when I was younger.
I don’t expect the perfection out of myself I once did. Instead I have actually learned to be thankful for the moral failings in my life. How could this be? My inability to conform to the standards I set for myself have taught me that I am not the wonderful person I would like to think I am. I know that I am corrupted and need a redeemer.
I was recently listining to an interview of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, authors of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (a fantastic book I highly recommend) on the Whitehorse Inn, Parenting With Discipline Grace. In the interview they discussed the dangers of complient children. As parents we can easily fall into the trap of thinking it's the "bad" children who need to hear the Gospel - who need to be "saved" - but we don't worry so much about the "good" kids and often forget to tell them they also need God's grace. It's easy for us to beleive that their outward obedience is enough. Often we focus too much upon our childrens' outward conformity to the law thinking that this should be our priority as Christian parents, forgetting that it was those who where good at such outward conformity that were most criticized by Jesus. It is the complient child who can too easily grow up to be a self-rightous pharisee. Like the rich young ruler the child may think they have kept the commandments since their birth without ever understand how much sin has corrupted their hearts (Matt 19:16-26).
I nearly become that person (and I know some people who don't know me as well as they think, probably think I am that person). However, despite my desire and attempts at being a good complient Christian, it is my failure which has taught me that I cannot look down upon others. I cannot say "God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers . . . " because too often I know I have to say "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (Luke 18:11,13). My imperfections have taught me I am not the righteous one who deserves, or can win God's approval through good works. I have accepted my neediness. I have learned to accept God’s love and grace as the free gifts that they are.
It took my failure for me to learn just how broken I was. If I didn't have the particular faults that I do have - if I had more socially or culturally acceptable sinfulness (especially sinfulness that is acceptable to even conservative Christian culture) I believe I would have easily become a person who thought they could please God with their performance, instead of a person who knows he must humbly approach God through the mediating work of Jesus. It is my sin which taught me, as it did Martin Luther, to acknowledge my spiritual poverty and weakness, what looks like foolishness to so many - that is the blood and cross of Jesus. It is my weakness which has made me abondon all attempts to climb up the mountain to reach God, to seek enlightenment, self-reliance, or self-purification.
Teaching our children to be moral is important, but it is not distinctively Christian. We must be able to distinguish between relative human goodness and the goodness required to stand in the presence of the Holy God. One is outward, temporal and can be measured by us. The other is the nature of a person, which can only be measured by God, can only come from God and is given by grace through trust in Jesus.
One last thought I would like to highlight from the interview of Fitzpatrick and Thompson - why are we suprised when our children our disobedient when we routinely disobey God our Father? Of course many people may not understand the relationship God wants to have with them, they do not understand their sin, or they do not understand God's love. Most likely they do not understand either. It's no wonder they have difficulty giving their children grace, or that they are actively trying to raise moralists (see my previous post What's So Bad About Moralism). But, we who have honestly faced our failings, and who trust in the grace of God given through Jesus, must actively strive to pass the love of God to our children.