...The primary reason that the majority of kids from Christian homes stray from the faith is that they never really heard it or had it to begin with. They were taught that God wants them to be good, that poor Jesus is sad when they disobey, and that asking Jesus into their hearts is the breadth and depth of the gospel message. Scratch the surface of the faith of the young people around you and you'll find a disturbing deficiency of understanding of even the most basic tenets of Christianity.-Elyse Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace
Does this message sound familiar in your home? What are your children hearing when you go together through times of teaching and discipline? I think sometimes this is as far as we get in my home. I was hugely convicted by this sentence. I think I've even said many times how sad Jesus is to see them unloving towards their sibling. I just had to sit in awe and ask, "Is this really what I am teaching my children?" Do I really teach them that their behavior is what matters more than anything? Even in talking about the condition of their hearts, an expectation is set before them, a standard that they must meet. In the hairiness that is parenting, I realized I need to be even more intentional to make time for deeper gospel conversations and be more diligent in my own preparation for them, so that they will flow easily from my mouth in times of frustration and discipline. I recognize that this will be a grace from God.
The reason that sentence is so startling is because it brings light to a way of Christian parenting that has been going on for generations. In the words of Elyse (I may use her a lot!), "...Instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality." Are we giving them more than simply lessons on morality? Yes, we read scripture, and yes we tell the story about Jesus and what he did. But even then, we teach that doing something (asking Jesus into their hearts) saves them. Abraham was saved without moving a muscle but by the saving grace of His Father (and his heir!) We place a huge emphasis for our children on their behavior and obedience (which is not bad, by the way, but it is not the most important aspect of our parenting) Elyse puts it this way, and it is startling, "Instead of the gospel of grace, we've given them daily baths in a "sea of narcissistic moralism" and they respond to law the same way we do; they run for the closest exit as soon as they can."
Another kicker, when we begin to think about what we're really teaching our children, we need to ask ourselves, "Does simply a moralistic teaching really look any different from the teachings of a Mormon parent or that of a moral atheist parent?" What makes the Christian message distinct in how it permeates the hearts of men (and our children!)?
Thinking much on this today...