Teaching Children Repentance


Your personal relationships will be defined on a practical level by your ability to repent of sin when confronted. Parents, it starts with you. You and I must take responsibility for our failures so our children learn how to take responsibility for theirs. Children are always watching us. When we repent, we both accept that the law is good (1 Tim. 1:8) and that we are in need of grace. If we can’t deal with our weaknesses and failures and take responsibility for them, then we must prepare for a life of fake relationships. We will never crack the surface of a true relationship if we can’t own up to our own failures, receive grace, and allow our friends to do the same. Our children will most likely follow in our footsteps. If our pride keeps us from repentance with those closest to us, whether family or friends, we must do some serious soul searching. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). I’ve noticed that prideful people love it when someone takes responsibility for a wrong committed against them, but they also sparingly give grace. They enjoy seeing others come groveling for forgiveness. This is not the Spirit of Christ, but the antithesis. What are they modeling to their children? Certainly not Christlike‐ ness. At the height of pain and suffering, Jesus said, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Real relationships are a struggle. We must be willing to own up to our failures and live in the life-giving power of Christ’s forgiveness, then be willing to extend it to others. Parents must understand that their children are watching. As parents, we will make plenty of mistakes. We will sin against others, including our own children. When we realize it, we must model a humble and repentant heart. We must teach our children that we are humble enough to confess and repent of our sins, and at the same time, we must humbly receive their confessions and repentance with forgiveness.


The worst thing you can do for your children if they are caught in sin is to defend them and get them off the hook. Parents raising their kids in a no-consequence world will watch them pay for it when they are older. Once, after we ordered our kids water to drink at Dairy Queen, I noticed them all getting refills before we left. When we got home, I saw that one of my children had filled her cup with fruit punch. Dairy Queen was five miles away, and it was late. I talked with my daughter, and clearly she knew she had done wrong. What was I to do: issue a stern warning and let it go or drive back into town and make it right? It’s just fruit punch! Dairy Queen wouldn’t know! She’s a kid, right? Wrong. It was clear to me that she needed to confess the sin and repent of it. I told her to get her piggy bank. We were going to Dairy Queen to meet with the manager on duty. She was stressed, but in my mind, it was a lot better to address it at eight years old rather than sixteen, after her character (or lack thereof) was already developed. On the way back to Dairy Queen that night I never said, “I can’t believe you did that!” I didn’t berate her. She was in inner turmoil, convicted of her sin. I could see it all over her face. So, I patiently coached her on how to take responsibility when we got there — what she should say, what she should not say, and how to make Jesus happy. We prayed together in the parking lot and then went in. My daughter did great. With tears in her eyes, she explained what she had done and asked the manager to forgive her. The manager graciously told her she didn’t have to pay for the juice. I insisted that she did. Our children sometimes need to feel the sting of sin, and we were going to see this teachable moment through. Remember, it is the law that drives us to our need for the Gospel. These types of lessons are important for our children, and while they aren’t a huge deal in big people world, we are helping them grow in Christ. This experience was both embarrassing and liberating for my eight-year-old. She told me on the way home she was glad we returned for her to apologize. She didn’t think she would have been able to sleep if we hadn’t. My daughter learned that night to walk through confession and repentance and realized that on the other side there was grace. I couldn’t have been more proud of her. She, like you and me, was a sinner saved by grace

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