How come some parents are more successful at nurturing a long-term faith in their kids? Our research has shown that one of the key variables is how kids are raised to understand the Gospel.Too many young people today live by what philosopher Dallas Willard calls the “gospel of sin management.” This truncates the Gospel to the belief that we have to adhere to a bunch of good behaviors in order to have a relationship with Jesus. When young people don’t live up to these behaviors, guilt causes them to think that the relationship itself is over. They end up running from God and the church, just when they need both the most.
But grace is the heart of Christianity, and it needs to be the primary understanding of faith in our homes. Through the Incarnation, God pursues us, offering a gift of salvation that isn’t dependent upon our actions or our ability to clean ourselves up. It’s a gift we simply receive. And continue to receive every day.
Kids make mistakes. They’ll choose to sin. I frequently tell my children that Jesus is bigger than any mistake we can make. He can handle it all — all our little accidental mistakes, all our big intentional sins.
Grace doesn’t mean we live without boundaries. Kids need parents to clearly establish behavioral guidelines and then discipline them when they step across those lines. But we must strive for a way to sprinkle grace even into our discipline — perhaps especially in our discipline. Sometimes, it’s the tone of voice we use when taking away privileges. Other times, it’s how we empathize with a child’s frustration — the frustration he feels over a poor choice. Or, (more likely) the frustration he feels with his parents for imposing discipline.
Kids also need to see their parents relying on the same grace that we want them to experience. If we want our homes to shine with a complete picture of grace, we as parents need to be quick to apologize. Confessing our mistakes to our kids not only builds closer family relationships, but it also helps our kids recognize everyone’s need for God’s tender mercies. Indeed, you’re more likely to have children repent if you have made “I’m sorry” a regular part of your vocabulary.
Excerpt from A Faith That Sticks by Kara Powell