It was a hard weekend for a little girl in our home. Her stuff dumped here and there, never picked up. Her chores largely forgotten. Tears about anything that wasn't to her liking. Wound up, her daddy told her it would be awhile before he took her to the movies again. (They saw Dolphin Tale, and recommend it.)
Then, on Sunday morning another child dumped a water bottle all over someone else's shoes, and the stench was pretty dang awful. I dumped out the rest of the contents to find putrid chocolate chips and water... the little girl in question had helped herself to chocolate chips in our freezer and then hid them in her water bottle for who knows how long. Long enough to make a foul and pungent mess.
Halfway to church, our little miss announced, "I don't have any shoes." Great. She's gone to church at least three times this summer without shoes. I'm old enough and been at this long enough not to care, but still... a hard weekend for her. And I was thinking as I drove the rest of the way to church, "This little girl needs to hear the Gospel."
Which is vastly different than what I once would have thought. I would have turned to the law. To rules. To consequences. To discipline. And while there are always consequences to our choices (she'll have to wash out that water bottle, find her shoes, and organize the shoe shelves), what we all need to be reminded of and what they need to hear is that we can never do it right. Only Jesus can. And only the Holy Spirit can equip them to make the right choices.
Don't miss what I'm saying. It isn't that we ignore sin. We deal with it, and children do need to obey their parents. The same applies to us adults- there are consequences to our actions and we must obey God. It's just that when we blow it over and over and over, our God opens His arms wider and pours out more mercy, more grace, and in great and lavish abundance. It melts our hearts and makes us want to sidle up and squat under His protection and wisdom. I want my kids to want to do that too, but that will never happen if all I do is lay down the law and remind them of their failures.
Furthermore, it is finished. There is nothing that she nor I nor you can add to the Gospel, try as we might. No little girl is going to be able to behave in any way that will make the Gospel better. Neither is any big girl.
She is loved, just as she is, because of what Jesus finished on the cross. She doesn't need to prove herself to anyone, she just needs to accept and know and love Him well. His grace is sufficient. She can crawl up into God's lap because He has covered her with His righteousness based upon His merit, not hers.
Just point them to Jesus. When you don't know what to do, give them the Gospel. But you know what? You DO know what to do - give them the Gospel.