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Do You Teach Your Kids the Gospel or Law?
Everything that isn’t gospel is law. Let us say it again: everything that isn’t gospel is law.
Don't breed despair in your kids
Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law. We won’t get the results we want from the law. We’ll get either shallow self-righteousness or blazing rebellion or both (frequently from the same kid on the same day!). We’ll get moralistic kids who are cold and hypocritical and who look down on others, or you’ll get teens who are rebellious and self-indulgent and who can’t wait to get out of the house. We have to remember that in the life of our unregenerate children, the law is given for one reason only: to crush their self-confidence and drive them to Christ.
The law doesn't make us good
The law also shows believing children what gospel-engendered gratitude looks like. But one thing is for sure: we aren’t to give our children the law to make them good. It won’t, because it can’t. In our hearts we know that’s true because the law hasn’t made us good, either, has it?
Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law.
The story of Jonah isn’t about learning to be obedient or facing the consequences. The story of Jonah is about how God is merciful to both the religiously self-righteous, unloving Pharisee (Jonah) and the irreligious, violent pagan. The story is a story about God’s ability to save souls and use us even when we disobey. It’s a story about God’s mercy not our obedience. Here’s how a conversation with a child would differ if we were giving gospel instead of law:
“Good job, Joshua! Now what does the story teach us?” Mom asked.
Caleb’s hand was the first one up. “It means that we should obey when God tells us to do something, like go tell people about God.”
“Yes, Caleb, we are to obey God but that’s not the primary message of the story. Can you think of any other message?”
Jordan piped up. “Lots of times people don’t want to obey God.”
“Right, Jordan! That’s exactly right. I know that it’s hard for me to obey. I’m just like Jonah, too. Can you think of any other messages? No? Then let me help you. This story is a message about how kind and merciful God is. He was kind to the bad people from Nineveh because he didn’t destroy them even though they deserved it. He was kind to them by making them believe the message that Jonah told them. But he was also kind to Jonah. Even though Jonah didn’t love his neighbors (the people from Nineveh), God didn’t leave him to die in the belly of a big fish, although that was what he deserved. Instead he gave him another chance and kept giving him chances even though Jonah didn’t really love God or his merciful nature. God gives us so many opportunities to obey him because he loves us and is so merciful. God shows us how he loves us because his dear Son, Jesus, spent three days in a very dark place just like Jonah did. He spent three days in a grave after dying for our sins. But then he rose again from the dead so that we could be good in God’s eyes and tell other people about how loving he is. Can you think of some things we could do so that other people would know about God’s love?”
Different answers were shouted out. “We could bake cookies for our neighbors and invite them to church! We could offer to do chores for them, too!”
“Right! Now let’s celebrate God’s mercy and have a party with some goldfish crackers and blue Jell-O I’ve made.”