Saturday, March 16, 2013

This is my first blog post, so I thought I would just jump in with both feet with something I have been writing about on a parenting message board.  (Gentle Christian Mothers)

These are some of my thoughts on the idea of what it means for a baby/child to have "original sin" or a "sin nature".   Punishment is very often a parent's first response to seeing their child do something they consider "sinful",  the goal being to make sin so distasteful and painful that the child will try to avoid it... but is this really how God wants us to respond to sin?

What is sin anyway?

Sin is what happens on the inside, it is not what you do on the outside. If a child wants to hit his brother, but he does not because he is afraid of being punished... you have not dealt with the sin, which is the DESIRE to hurt his brother in the first place. All you have done is kept the sin from being seen on the outside. If you focus on replacing that sin with love, by teaching compassion, empathy, patience, forgiveness, then you are dealing with the sin. Love extinguishes sin the way light banishes darkness. Where there is love, there is no sin, it just cannot exist. The way to deal with sin is to sow LOVE. You cannot do this with punishment.

Christian parents often punish what they see as "sinful behavior" because they think they are making their child more pleasing to God. It might be a good idea to find out what God actually wants from us in the first place. The most important command God gives us is to LOVE....  LOVE HIM and LOVE EACH OTHER... and he tells us that everything else hangs on these two things, so if you do not LOVE, then nothing else you do means anything. I Cor. 13 tells us that no matter how GOOD your behavior is, if you do not LOVE, it is completely worthless. So if you are making your child behave in a way you believe is pleasing to God, but this behavior is not motivated by love, God is not impressed. You have accomplished NOTHING. So what if your son jumps to obey at your every command... if he is not obeying out of love, it is nothing. So what if your daughter never talks back or argues, if the only reason she is "respectful" is because she knows that if she is not, you will punish her? This does not please God, either.

If you truly want to make your children pleasing to God, you have to teach them how to love him. Punishments cannot do this. The best way to teach your kids how to love God is to demonstrate his love towards them. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8  "We love him because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19 "he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." Psalm 103:10

My biggest hang-up when I was learning about gentle discipline was that I could not figure out how to make my kids "not sin" if I was not punishing them. Paul ran into that, too. "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" Basically, if God isn't going to punish us, can we just do whatever we want?

Paul's answer was that because we were set free from the law, we are also free to CHOOSE to obey, not out of fear of punishment, but because of our relationship with Jesus. We learn through building our relationship with Him to make better choices, and when we DO miss the mark, we are told to "come boldly to the throne of Grace to find mercy and help in time of need".

So if we are going to model that relationship to our children, we have to treat THEM the way God treats US. We need to show them how to make good choices, and when they inevitably make poor ones, we extend grace and show them how to fix their mistakes.

THIS is how you deal with the sin nature, you irradiate it with the Love of God. You, as the parent, make love the foundation of your life, to the point that everything you do is directly motivated by your love for God. This is what will draw your child to God, not fear of being punished, but a personal understanding of what it means to be loved so fiercely and unconditionally. We love Him because he first loved us... LIVE God's love to your children. That's all he asks you to do. "Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself". THIS is the core of the Gospel, this should be the core of every Christian home. If you love, you will not hurt others. If you love, you will not lie. If you love, you will not steal. If you want your kids to act this way, put love into them. " If you LOVE ME, you WILL keep my commands".

The love has to come first.

more to come.... 


  1. My only "push back" would be about your statement that "punishments cannot do this" (teach your child how to love). I'd rephrase it as "punishments ALONE cannot do this." God Himself, as the perfect parent, does still punish/discipline us at times (Hebrews 12:6). It's in the "how" of discipline that our children need to see the difference.

    I love your focus on getting to the root, the heart level. That is where true change happens, as Christ changes us.

  2. You might want to take a closer look at that verse.

    "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Heb. 12:6

    The words used here are important. The word for "chasten" can mean "to teach", or "to whip or beat", but the second word, "scourge", is very precise, it is "mastigoĊ", and it is used to describe what was done to Christ before he was crucified. It is used 6 times in the New Testament, all of these was in reference to a severe punishment with a scourge.

    This verse is a reference to another that also mentions being whipped:

    "But He was wounded for our transgressions,
    He was bruised for our iniquities;
    The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
    And by His stripes we are healed."
    Isaiah 53:5

    What Hebrews was saying was not that God punishes us, but that he credits to us all the punishment Christ bore on the cross. He does not scourge us, because Christ took all the punishment in himself. There is nothing left for us to take. If even a small part of our own sin was left, the the cross would have been for nothing. If God punishes us for our sins, then he is denying what Christ did for us on the cross.

    "I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more."
    Isaiah 43:25

    It cannot be both ways, either we are no longer under the law, because the punishment the law demands has already been fulfilled, or we have to pay for our own sins, in which case we are all lost.

    This is exactly why Paul tried to explain this in Romans 6:

    " What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?"

    The whole point was that there was no longer any punishment for our sins. If God does not punish us, then what right do we have to punish our children?

    This does not negate the natural consequences of sin. God does not prevent us from experiencing the negative results of our choices, but he does not CAUSE them. If you cheat on your wife, you are not punished by getting cancer, but you may lose your marriage as a direct result of your sin. See the difference?