Among the pitfalls of Christian parenting, I know of none any trickier to navigate than moderating youthful behavior: I want my child to become obedient, and to obey the FIRST time I give the instruction or command. I want to be consistent in doling out consequences for failing to obey. But both parent and child are human, and we fall short. My granddaughter Lucy doesn’t always want to bend her own will to mine (surprise!!)–and her most stubborn moments sometimes coincide with my greatest fatigue…I am just too tired to want to follow through.
In addition, I am aware of not wanting to send the message that I demand perfection, or that her perfect obedience is required in order to receive my love (or God’s). Neither Lucy nor I can ever be “good enough” to merit God’s favor. And He has made it clear through His Word that He loves us in spite of our faults.
But just as we continue to lower the bar in education, so that no child will be left behind or feel less than ‘special‘… …I wonder if we unconsciously lower the behavioral bar as well, by refusing to call sin ‘sin’, by letting ourselves off the hook, by hoping that God ‘grades on a curve.’ Do we secretly think that His holiness and righteousness are just His personal preferences, rather than standards both high and non-negotiable? Why else did God Himself have to provide the sin offering to pay for our guilt?
Since as a believer in Christ’s sacrifice, I know I’m forgiven, do I ever whitewash my current behavior by thinking, “Oh well, God will forgive me”? Do I neglect the pursuit of holiness, viewing my frequent failings as inevitable? Do I think, “Oh, well, that’s good enough” when I succeed only for a short time in conquering a sin? God help me, I do.
The apostle Peter, in his second letter, wrote that we have:
“everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
(2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
We have everything we need–He has given it to us. So we can just relax now, right? No!
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV)
Balancing the knowledge of my own inherent weakness and need for a savior, with the reality of living as one redeemed and capable of pursuing righteousness, being effective and productive for the Lord, is the work of my lifetime.
So I certainly should not be surprised when Lucy displays defiance, when she screams in frustration, sneaks another piece of candy…she hasn’t even reached the point of understanding fallenness, much less the struggle to live a holy life. But if I want her to begin as she is to go on, I have to model for her that there IS a high and holy standard. And I have to gently love her through every failing, and encourage her to try again, just as God never gives up on me.
For a parent, anything less than this model is really not good enough.