“I am wondering how you ever get around to dealing with your children's logs and specks when you have to deal with your own first. That's a revealing comment, isn't it! I am fully aware that uncontrollable emotion in me points to MY sin, which needs to be dealt with, but not so sure that I can ever deal with sin in my children over-emotion-free. I know it has something to do with awareness of, and acceptance of how much I have been forgiven, but still have a hard time with it - so I look forward to your further reflections with expectation and hopefulness.”
It not only has something to do with awareness of and acceptance of how much I’ve been forgiven, but I believe it has quite a bit to do with it, as does looking for the root of my own uncontrollable emotional response. (Once we deal with the root issues, I’ll have some practical applications that I’ve been trying lately with my own brood.)
If I don’t act upon the knowledge of the depth of my own sin and the even greater amount of grace poured upon me, I’m the ungrateful servant of Christ’s parable. He was forgiven a debt he couldn’t have paid in five lifetimes. He then went out and found someone who owed him $10 and put him in debtors’ prison until the debt could be repaid.
Think of an old-fashioned scale, a balance. One side contains the immeasurable fullness of my sin against the infinite, transcendent, and holy Lord. It’s deeper (and darker) than the Mariana Trench, higher than Alpha Centauri, and heavier than Jupiter, and it’s all been forgiven because of Christ. On the other side of our metaphorical balance is the sin the person I’m in conflict with has committed against me - all 2 or 3 grains’ worth of sand. Until the sin against me is as huge as my sin against God which he has forgiven, I have no right to get angry.
I must also examine the root of my sin. Why exactly am I so upset when one of my children sins? Various reasons come to mind.
Maybe they’ve disregarded my desires (for a clean house, a bowl of ice cream, a half hour of peace and quiet, help in the garden...you fill in the blank).
My children aren’t thinking of me and I’m upset about that. Don’t they realize how much they owe me? How many hours I spent in labor? How hard I work to homeschool them? How much I’ve given up for them? All I’ve given them and do for them each day? I’m so wonderful, well ... they should just bow down and worship me.
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve lost sight of what I really do deserve (and, because of Christ, what I’m not getting). My focus at this point is myself and it’s not pretty; I’ve become more important in my eyes than anyone else. I’m worshipping myself, which is another way to say I’ve descended into idolatry. Ouch. It’s not only not pretty, it’s pretty ugly...horribly ugly. (Which brings me back to the cross and the enormity of the forgiveness offered there, and the gratitude toward Christ for his sacrifice. There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.)
Or suppose there’s real sin going on in my children (not an unreasonable conjecture). Who are they really sinning against? Me? or God himself? What is my responsibility before the Lord toward my children?
After listing the fruit of the Spirit and contrasting it with the fruit of the flesh, Paul writes, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 5:25-6:1)
Paul gives us instructions for how we should treat one another, not just when things are going well, but especially when a brother (one of my children) is caught in sin. The picture in my mind isn’t that I’ve caught one of my children red-handed (ah-ha!), but that sin, which blinds and deceives, is a trap that has caught one of my children, the sin that so easily entangles from Hebrews, chapter 12. If I were to come upon one of my children caught in a physical trap of some sort, I’d want to set him free from the trap, not challenge him or boast that I wasn’t entangled in it. And I’d realize that he certainly couldn’t free himself.
I’m the one “who is spiritual” when my child is caught in sin. How must I seek to restore him? Not by challenging him, but in a spirit of gentleness. Why must I seek to be gentle? That I too will not be tempted. Restore him to whom? The Lord, primarily. And again, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Do I act as if I want to condemn him or to restore him?
I must remind myself that my children’s sin isn’t really against me, but against the Lord, transcendent, holy, and just. Even if they do owe me $10, I owed the Lord much, much more and he forgave. In gratitude to him, how can I do less? If I can bring this from the confessional level of simply acknowledging this in my mind to the functional level of living by it, I will begin to be changed by it, and I’ll begin to be able to deal more effectively and biblically with my children’s sin.