“Above all, teach your children what it means to live as…

Our pastor concluded his Sunday sermon on the first part of Ephesians 6 about children with this:

“Above all, teach your children what it means to live as a justified sinner.”

That sentence just reached out and grabbed me. If he had said, “Teach them that they are wretched sinners,” I would have said, “Yeah, that is certainly what we did.” But “justified”??? That concept totally and completely passed us by in the Assembly.

To know–to really know and count on–that Jesus has paid it all, that there is no judgment still waiting to come down – how wonderful it was when you first came to Christ! It was like the children’s song

I’m so happy and here’s the reason why–
Jesus took my burden all away!
Now I’m singing as the days go by–
Jesus took my burden all away
Once my heart was heavy
With a load of sin
Jesus took the load
And gave me peace within my heart
And now I’m happy and that’s the reason why–
Jesus took my burden all away!!

I wonder if many Assembly children ever experienced that happiness. As a parent, I was constantly being drilled by Betty that the hearts of children are innately rebellious. It was my job as a parent to be ever on the alert for every hint of self-will popping up, and to crush it immediately with stern consequences.

It seems to me that we were attempting to extinguish sin in our kids. Which is not what the gospel does, at least not in this life. What it does do is give us joy and thankfulness for forgiveness. And that makes us want to please God.

So we live as justified sinners–still sinning but knowing our debt has already been paid. Safe in God’s full acceptance and love, we can pick ourselves up and go on in happiness because “…Jesus took the burden all away.” How different it could have been for our children if the good feelings of forgiveness, and relief from guilt and failure, and complete acceptance had been dominant in their lives.

One very unfortunate side effect of exterminating self-will was that individuality was often squashed in the process. Children were strongly encouraged to imitate the adults, not discover their own interests and talents.

How different from the message we drilled into our kids – “You are a wretched sinner and we must keep you under minute surveillance at every moment for any sign of your innate rebellion popping up, so we can thoroughly exterminate it and get you under complete and utter submission.” So, “sinner” – amen, absolutely. But “justified”???? –

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Margaret Irons and her husband Steve and three children were in the Fullerton Geftakys Assembly for twenty years. We left in March, 1990. We are still recovering and learning in Orange County, CA.

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