Before I had kids, I knew everything about raising kids. When my kids young, I knew nothing about raising them. Now that they’re well into their teens, I know a little about how to raise kids. Here is about one of the few things I’ve learned.
When kids are young and in Sunday School and AWANA (and, hopefully, at home), we start to teach them Bible stories and about Jesus and how wonderful God’s grace is. They understand the idea of gifts and that God gives us his grace. And all of this leads up to their understanding salvation. And we’re so proud when they can articulate their understanding of salvation (whatever their developmental level) and get baptized (for those of us evangelicals).
Alongside this, and sometimes even overshadowing this, we also teach kids to be good. And that’s OK, because there’s a lot in the Bible about being good. Jesus taught a lot about how to follow him. And God makes it pretty clear that following His plan is a good idea. So we spend a lot of time and energy teaching kids how to act.
We do this even with teenagers. In fact, we probably do this more with teenagers. As a parent, I spend a lot of time and energy helping my kids to understand how God wants them to live and why. Why is sexual purity important? What is integrity and how do you live that in daily life? These are important things I want my kids to know and understand before they leave home.
Wait. Full stop. What’s the point of living a Godly life? Who cares if we’re good? It matters not one bit if we don’t understand grace. God wants us to be good because we’re living a life alongside Him, not because of the inherent goodness of following the rules. Just being good for the sake of being good is legalism.
But, when I look at how much time and energy I spend (and spent) teaching my kids to be good and how much I spent helping them to understand God’s amazing grace, I must admit that I’m pretty appalled. I got caught up into the whole “good kid” craze. Parenting is about raising good kids, right? No. Parenting is about raising kids who love Jesus. Being good is secondary (hopefully a very close second).
Grace is more than the salvation and baptism thing. Grace is walking with Jesus. Grace is Jesus being with us through all the trials and temptations of like. Grace is having a reason to “be good”. Grace keeps us going even after the emotional highs of a great week at camp. Grace is Jesus saying how much He loves us even when we aren’t “good” and that He’s still right there. You’ll never be too far gone for God’s grace. That’s what I want my kids to know.
I’ve got one kid at college and another here at home for another 2 and a half years. They’re already “good” kids. I’ve spending more of my influence now on helping them learn about grace and that it’s always there.