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February 3, 2021

Modeling Gospel Grace in Your Family

By Mike Standish

After everything I’ve done for you, you act like that? Do you know how much your mom and dad sacrifice for you? How could you embarrass me like that? If I have to tell you one more time…

If you are a parent (and you’re honest), you’ve probably uttered some form of these phrases at some point in your parenting. Exhausted and frustrated, we lash out at our kids with these cold statements. With no energy left, we resort to shaming.

Let’s just put it out there – we aren’t perfect parents, and we will mess up. Here’s the question I have for myself as a parent, and I invite you to ask it of yourself: Am I regularly modeling forgiveness to my kids? I don’t mean do we forgive them, but do we ask them to forgive us?

One of my favorite lines in the Lord’s Prayer is the request to God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others” (Matthew 6:12). This is powerful in two different ways. First, this prayer assumes we need forgiveness. Second, it assumes we are also offering forgiveness.

One of the best gifts we can offer our kids is a clear picture of what to do when they mess up, rebel, make a mistake, or choose their own way. There are plenty of options out there: throw it under the rug and act like nothing happened, make an excuse and never take responsibility, or work really hard to do better. The Bible offers a more beautiful story: admit the sin, turn to God, and receive His forgiveness.

Our kids don’t just need us to teach them nice stories of forgiveness in the Bible, or receive lectures on why they should forgive others. They need to see gospel grace lived out in our lives when we willing forgive them and, in humility, ask them to forgive us. In his book Parenting, Paul David Tripp writes, “If God’s plan really is to make his invisible grace visible by sending parents of grace to give grace to children who desperately need grace, then I am called not just to preach that grace but to live and model it for my children every day.”

Our kids see enough bitterness, grudges, and shaming in the culture in which they live. They see racial tension, political name-calling, Karen outbursts, and cancel culture. What they often don’t see is the humility of people who admit their failures before they call out others, or who see a path of redemption even for those who have wronged them. Parents, let’s be the counter-cultural picture of grace and mercy as we own our failures and demonstrate grace with theirs.

What our kids often don’t see is the humility of people who admit their failures before they call out others, or who see a path of redemption even for those who have wronged them.

If you know Jesus, then you know that without his forgiveness you would have no hope in this life and the life to come. Paul David Tripp has another sobering quote, “It is only as we are willing to confess that we are more like than unlike our children, that we ourselves need parenting every day, that we will be parents in need of a Father’s grace who will again and again lead our children to the grace of the Father.” I’m convinced that those who are most in tune with their own need of grace and forgiveness are the ones most ready to offer forgiveness.

What if our kids saw us engaging in less name-calling on social media, and more prayer for our enemies? What if they saw us more sorrowful for those who fail than rejoicing in their mishaps? What if our kids heard us talking more about tomorrow’s opportunities, which come through forgiveness, than the reminder of yesterday’s failures that come through shaming? What if our kids witnessed us coming to them with these four words, “Will you forgive me?”

After everything I’ve done for you, you act like that? Do you know how much your mom and dad sacrifice for you? How could you embarrass me like that? If I have to tell you one more time…

The next time we voice one of these phrases to our kids in anger, let’s go to a God who is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Then let’s take a humble and redemptive step, and ask for our kids’ forgiveness, too.

One Response

  1. I absolutely agree with this. I had both growing up but it was my Moms unconditional love that prepared me to receive the Grace of God in my life.. I wS not a perfect parent but always attempted to. give to mine as it was given to me. Thank God for his sweet grace and love.

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