*There seems to have been some interest in these practical family and parenting posts. I do not write as an expert in anything. This is simply one sinner saved by grace explaining his best approach to those awful 5 minutes after slamming a door or yelling at his children, when he realizes he behaved like a fool.
Then Daddy throws open the door, angry that his 9:30 PM peace and quiet is being interrupted.
He isn’t angry because his children have sinned against God and each other by stealing or hurting each other. Well, maybe a little, but not primarily. Primarily he’s angry because the created thing he wanted (peace and quiet, food, TV) was disrupted. That’s what has his fingers digging into his palms.
And do you know what we call it when a created thing is so important to you that you freak out if you don’t get it?
So, now Daddy’s idolatry play out in all its ugly glory, here. He clenches his teeth and points with his finger at Kid #1’s bed. “Get. In. Bed.” He raises his voice a few decibels to Kid #2. “If you do anything to him again I will spank your butt.” Then he shouts over the crying of Kid #3. “Enough! I don’t want to hear it! All of you: Be quiet.” He turns on a dime and slams the bedroom door.
And now sin has wrapped its poisonous vine around these four souls. Three children sinned against each other out of idolatry, and their father responded with anger at his own idol being threatened. None of these four souls were, at that moment, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ and savoring Him. That would’ve resulted in joy, forgiveness, peace, and patience.
Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet: This Daddy is me.
So, after a few minutes, I open the door, and tell the two who are old enough to get down out of bed to sit down with me. The other can listen from the crib. And then I say the following.
- “Daddy sinned.”
Before you apologize for a sin, you need to acknowledge that it was sin. It was not merely a “mistake,” it was not that you “lost your cool,” it was not that someone “made you” do it. Jesus did not die on the Cross to redeem good people for their “aw shucks” mistakes. He died to save sinners from their sins.
I sinned. Period. No excuses, no qualifications.
My kids need to know that sin is serious. If they don’t see Daddy taking his sin seriously, they’re less likely to take their sins seriously. And to live a Gospel life, a true Christian life, one must take sin seriously.
- “Daddy is sorry.”
If I’ve sinned, then I have at least two parities I need to apologize to, two people with whom I need to reconcile.
- The God whose Law I broke
- The person I sinned against
These apologies are essential for these relationships (mine to God and mine to the person I sinned against) to be restored. In general, if I am not a person who confesses my wrongs from the heart, I will not be a person who has healthy relationships.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
My kids need to hear me grieve my sin, hear me say that I am sorry that I did such a thing to God and to them. I realize that to some people this may sound like overkill for something as “small” as angrily raising your voice, but I firmly believe that that sentiment is usually arising from the flesh.
See, our flesh always wants to minimize our own sins and magnify others’ sins against us. We understand that it’s good for someone to apologize to us when he has committed even some “small” sin against us (and we are usually unhappy or feel slighted if he doesn’t). But because of our flesh and our pride, we often think that it isn’t necessary for us to apologize for our own “small” sins.
But it is. Jesus died to bear God’s wrath for every instance of bad anger I’ve ever committed, every harsh word and bitter thought and nursed grudge. Those sins are no small matter.
And, hear me on this part, too: Sin brings death. And so if I want life flowing through my relationships, I must confess my sins in those relationships and receive the grace and restoration of God.
- “Do you forgive me?”
Say what? You’re going to ask your kids to forgive you, dude?
Yes, because I (almost always) make them ask my wife or I to forgive them after they have sinned against us.
So, obviously we are in authority over our children, authority given to us by God for their good and His glory. They answer to God and to us. But one of the truths of the Bible is that authority comes with responsibility. I have a responsibility to God and to the children He’s given me to love them selflessly. When I treat them, even for a moment, as an impediment to my own pleasure, as an annoyance keeping me from TV or a snack or a good book, I am breaking that God-given responsibility. I am putting my own good ahead of theirs. And after acknowledging that sin and then grieving it, I need to give them the opportunity to forgive me.
Now, until children are born again through faith in Jesus Christ (something I hope all you parents pray for for your own children), they cannot forgive like a Christian can. They aren’t able to forgive from the bank of grace they have received in Christ Jesus, because they haven’t received that grace. But they can begin to see how important forgiveness is. And they can also begin to see how impossible it is to truly and humbly forgive without being made a new person.
See, one of the best things I can do to drive my children to the Cross is to make them try to forgive from the heart. Because in time, they will see how weak and selfish their hearts are. And so, I pray, they will call upon Jesus to change them and save them.
So, there you have it. That’s how this one Christian father does it. “Daddy sinned. I’m sorry. Do you forgive me?”
They’re no magic words, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. But often enough it builds trust, and it shows them just a little bit of what Christianity is, of who Daddy is, and of who Jesus is: The God who saved sinful father.
It’s no silver bullet. But I can honestly say that they increasingly feel comfortable enough to tell me if they think I’ve sinned, and they also feel a little more comfortable with owning up to their own sins.
Which is the point.
Because by God’s grace, I pray, someday each of them will come to Christ’s Cross on their knees and say to Him, in faith, words they once heard from their imperfect Daddy.
“Jesus, I sinned. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”