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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Forgiven

As a child I was taught to ask forgiveness for my sins each night when I prayed. I was also pretty clear about what those sins were and why I should feel guilty for them. I didn't have to spell them out aloud, but neither was I allowed to sing-song through that section of prayers with no apparent thought.  That was half a century ago though and many children today have never been coached to examine themselves for sin. Judging by the kids I see in confirmation, they are either oblivious to sin, or obsessed by it. There seems to be no healthy medium in this area.

So, if like me you think that neither of these places is good for your kids, you may wonder how to approach this with your kids. Here are a few practical ideas for your consideration:

  • First, think about your personal reaction to the word sin. Does it sound foreign? Condemning? Old-fashioned? Scary?
  • What do you identify as sinful? If you're not completely sure - ask your kids what you hate most - they know!
  • What do you think will happen to your kids if you ask them to look over their own behavior at the end of the day?
Those questions, by the way, make good journal fodder.  The more you write, the clearer it will become. You'll unearth things long since forgotten. Some of them will entertain you. Some will help you understand your own behavior better and a few will make you really mad at someone (which will require more time with a pen in your hand to work through.)

Now that you know where you stand, you're ready to introduce this to your kids. If you're Lutheran like me you can point at the general confessions we use in worship for clues about what needs to be forgiven: 
  • what we have done, 
  • what we have left undone, 
  • not loving God with our whole heart, 
  • not loving our neighbors as ourselves. 
With your freshly prepared heart you will have fun discussing this with your children. I know that my own children were pretty clear about what they had done wrong, but found it harder to identify what they had left undone. They also, being children, were much more inclined to love with their whole hearts and so I was enriched by them in the whole business of loving God and neighbor. 

One important thing remains - you have to explain that God will forgive their sins. You may have to wrestle with this yourself first because if you don't believe it, they will smell it. God will forgive their sins and yours. Period. End of subject. 

Confess. Ask forgiveness. Receive forgiveness. Done and done. We have a great and loving God. Share that gift with your kids. Let them know that just as nothing can separate them from your love, nothing can separate them from God's love. 

Unforgiven sin can divide people from one another as effectively as a river divides two banks.  So it is with God. It is not the sin that separates us, it is the unforgiven sin. Forgiveness builds the bridge that brings us together again. Going to sleep knowing you are right with God and world makes for a much brighter morning. Help your kids build a bridge!

1 comment:

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I'm so glad I read this today. Need to put some fire out on a few bridges.