I know I don’t usually start out my posts with a scripture, but please take a moment a think on this scripture in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthian 5: 17-21
“17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Have you ever wronged someone and they withheld forgiveness? Or what about the other way around, have you ever wronged someone and had that sick feeling in your stomach that you know you need to seek forgiveness and when you finally do, and they extend forgiveness to you, there is this huge weight lifted? The power of God’s reconciliation at work in the lives of His creatures.
I’m not a theologian, and I don’t consider myself truly wise even as a mother. But I have observed a few things in the past few years of mothering our children. This reconciliation with our children is a pretty big deal. In contemplating this scripture it makes so much sense of this thought I’ve been having lately, our primary job as Christian mother’s; teaching our children to love reconciliation, and to be uncomfortable without it.
At our house, with six (almost seven, but the last one is free from needing discipline at least for the time being, but if he doesn’t turn himself around he may get to experience his first form of discipline even before he’s born! ;) children who are 9 and under, we still do a LOT of disciplining. The younger children get a lot more than the older ones (thankfully), but the older ones still need guidance and discipline from time to time. I’ve been thinking about how important this process is, to the health of our potential adult children, in regards to their relationship with the Lord.
Here’s the process that we go through with our children; when they have committed a sin, use writing on the wall for instance (if you come to our house you will see that this sin has been committed many times over :) We take the offending child into our room, ask them, “did you write on the wall?” If they wont admit it we work on them and explain that if they lie to us they will be disciplined a second time for lying, and that we can only trust them if they tell the truth. When we get them to admit their fault, we ask them, “was this disobedience?” They will say “yes.” Then we ask the little ones, “what happens when you disobey mommy and daddy?” They will reply quietly, “I get a spanking. :(” And I usually say, “that’s right honey, mommy loves you and I want you to obey mom and dad so you can learn to obey God, God wants us to obey Him, and I want you to obey God.” Or something like that, it’s not always the same but something to that extent. I have them bend over my knee and give 2-5 good swats depending on their age. This next part is the most important part. Then the child says (with my prompting), “I’m sorry mommy, for disobeying, will you forgive me?” I say, “I will forgive you!” And then we hug, and I make sure that they give me a good hug, and not walk off moping, if they try to walk away moping then we have a little more talking to do. Some of the kids accept forgiveness and move on quickly, depending on the situation. But this last part is imperative. This is where the reconciliation happens, where our hearts are knit back together, and the work of the redeeming power of Christ’s cross is at work in our children’s lives. If there is no reconciliation happening on a daily basis, we are not truly teaching our children how to come to the Father, lay our sins at the feet of the cross, and walk away a changed man, free from sin, and free to walk in the newness of Christ.
Here’s another part that’s important. After this discipline/reconciliation has taken place, it’s over. No more punishment, no more mentioning how they had wronged me, no time outs or prolonged punishing. They paid the price, sought my forgiveness and we are all good again.
This act of reconciliation is also extremely important when our children sin against one another, we do the same process only when they are asking for forgiveness they are addressing their brother or sister or friend. And we teach our children to extend forgiveness to one another, no holding grudges allowed in this family. It doesn’t mean that we don’t struggle more with one sibling over another, but when forgiveness is extended we look for a heart-change, reconciliation happening. They should be able to hug, with a smile on their faces, the burden of anger lifted, and they should be able to play together without fighting (at least until the next offense is committed, which may be in 15 minutes or less :).
I’ve been thinking about why this is so important, and it goes back to the scenario I mentioned at the beginning of this post. That feeling you get when you’ve wronged someone. The conviction of God’s Spirit, we can’t change what has been done, but confession and seeking forgiveness is part of God’s way of reconciling us to one another, just as we reconcile ourselves to Him through repentance and the cross of Christ. If we do not teach our children on a daily basis to 1. admit/confess their sins, 2. ask for forgiveness, 3. receive forgiveness. Then we are essentially teaching them to ignore the prompting of God’s Spirit, urging them to make their sins right, and come into alignment with God’s laws.
The earlier our children learn this simple exercise, of confessing, seeking forgiveness, and then walking out that forgiveness through reconciliation, the more equipped they will be to walk in obedience to Christ as adults. If they learn to identify that discomfort of being out of union with their parents/siblings, they will also learn to discern when they are out of union with their Heavenly Father. I believe this is how we are to be “ministers of reconciliation” to our children.
We are not perfect parents. And we don’t do this perfectly, we often find ourselves falling short of God’s command to be ministers of reconciliation, and we have to go to our children and confess, we’ve not be faithful, we’ve not disciplined or loved you as God wants us to, or we’ve gotten angry or impatient instead of teaching you. And this too is another opportunity for us to show them how we reconcile, we make it right by confessing and asking their forgiveness and humble ourselves and receive their forgiveness. It’s all part of God’s design for a healthy family.
We don’t have teenagers yet, but we have confidence in the work of the cross in our children’s lives. We look forward to those days with hope and assurance that God’s Word is true and if we follow Him, that our children will follow us to the cross. I hope that this will encourage some of you to seek daily reconciliation with your children, to not hold grudges against them but to truly extend forgiveness each time they’ve wronged you. I find myself at times holding grudges against a four year old, and I have to stop and remind myself that I forgave them, now I need to walk that forgiveness out just as Christ has forgiven me! They need to “feel” our forgiveness, as much as we need to feel the burden of sin lifted off our shoulders by our loving Saviour. Bless all you moms as you walk this out with your children!