I sat across the table from a mother who was in a great deal of emotional pain. She was struggling with a decision she had made to give her daughter permission to participate in a school activity that she knew was sinful. I watched as she went through the arguments out loud one by one to justify her decision as to why it “might be ok:” “other ‘Christian’ girls do it;” “my daughter knows it is wrong anyway”…. trying to comfort herself that her daughter would not lose her Christian reputation or influence, and would not succumb to other temptations that would be associated with the activity. She finally looked up at me with pain in her eyes when she finally came to the real reason for her dilemma: “But I already gave her permission. What would she think of me if I told her ‘no’ now? She would hate me forever. She would say I was ruining her life.” We all make mistakes as parents, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, Bible class teachers, grandmothers, etc. We all make wrong choices from time to time (I John 1:10). There are even times that we lead our children down the path of unrighteousness because we fear they will lose friends, worry they will pull away from us if we say “no,” or we buy into the advice that if we tell them “no” and don’t let them “experiment” for themselves, they will rebel when they are older. But, the important question is, are we willing to show our children godly repentance when we make those mistakes so they will understand that we have humbled ourselves before the throne of God and show them that we are human, that they are human and therefore, need the mercy of our Lord when we stumble and fall (I John 1:9; Rom 3:23).
We spend a great deal of time emphasizing the Lord’s plan for salvation to our children’s, but the Lord tells us that that step is not the end of our commitment and journey, (Rom. 2:5-7; I Pet 1:6-7; Luke 16: 10-13) that we are to remain faithful until death (Rev. 2:10). That is the tough part for many of us as we fight our daily shortcomings and sinful habits just as Paul did (I Cor. 9:24-27: “I But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”). We must finish our children’s instruction beyond their baptism into the Lord’s body as they learn how to walk in that “newness of life” and sacrifice our lives daily to Him (Gal. 2:20), to teach them what it really means to take up their cross daily (Lk 9:23-25). I believe by showing our children our faults and struggles, that we are able to show our true dedication to our Lord (2 Cor 7:8-10) and show our children our Lord’s kindness and willingness to forgive (I Cor 6: 11). It teaches them to learn that everyone has struggles (I John 1:8) and that we can grow stronger through them (James 1: 2-4). It teaches them to know that the Christian walk is not an easy one, it has hardships and difficulties as Satan tries to pull them from their Lord, but they can have the comfort in knowing the Lord is merciful and knows our weakness, can understand the temptations we face (Luke 4:1-13). It is a great opportunity to help our children understand that God knows and sees all that we do, and is willing to forgive if we are truly repentant and will ask (I John 1:9; Heb. 4:14-15). And above all, it shows a wonderful picture to our children of a merciful Savior who gave His life that we have the opportunity to turn from our fleshly desires and to be cleansed by His sacrifice (Isaiah 53: 4-6,12; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:7-10; Rom. 3:24-26).
Our Lord was kind enough to give us wonderful examples of repentance and forgiveness. Consider the comfort we get in reading these examples: David (called a man after God’s own heart in I Sam 13:14) committed sin with another man’s wife in 2 Sam 11-12. His repentance for taking another man’s wife is documented in II Sam 12:13, and he accepted the consequences in II Sam 12:16-23. Peter, the apostle of Jesus lied and denied Jesus three times in John 18: 25-27, but Jesus forgave him when he repented (Lk 22:62) and trusted him to take care of His sheep (John 21: 15-17). These examples show us the mercy and grace of our God when we are willing to return to Him. How would we know His mercy exists without these examples?
Now to return to the story of the mother I sat across from many years ago. My advice to this mother was: “What a great opportunity and what a great example of repentance you would be to her if you told her you were wrong after prayer, studying God’s word and considering the activity in light of God’s precepts! What a joy!” However, I could tell by the look in her eyes that was not what she wanted to hear. The mother never told her daughter that she was wrong, never shared with her daughter the intimate confession of her wrong and seeing the comfort and peace she would have from drawing closer to her Lord through her asking forgiveness and receiving the comfort she deserved. What great opportunity she missed to help her daughter understand the merciful forgiveness of her heavenly father. (He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper; but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy” Proverbs 28:13). I have never forgotten that day and the pain I saw in that mother’s eyes. I pray we are not too proud to admit that we are wrong to our children, and are always willing show them the loving kindness, mercy and powerful cleansing peace that only God can bring when we prostrate ourselves before Him, admitting our wrongs and then able to rise again in perfect peace that only our Lord’s grace, mercy and forgiveness can offer (Phil. 4:7).
Tracy is the helpmeet to Greg Frederick who serves as an elder for the congregation of the Lord's church that meets in Arkansas City where she now teaches the 2 and 3 year old Bible class. They have a grown daughter. She also holds a PhD in Communication/Rhetoric, teaches communication and directs the Communication Studies program full time at a small college