In our Mama Heart Like Jesus series we are studying how Jesus discipled His followers as a model for discipling our own children.
Now let’s look at how Jesus restored relationships with his disciples by offering forgiveness and grace.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
One of my favorite Bible stories occurs when Jesus appeared to the disciples the third time after rising from the dead. Peter had messed up big time, cutting off a soldier’s ear and denying Jesus three times in His greatest time of need. But in this story, Peter, James, John, and some of the other disciples are fishing (like the old days) when they hear the familiar sound of their teacher giving them fishing tips from the shore. Peter immediately recognizes Jesus’ voice and jumps off the boat to swim to Him. If I were Jesus, I probably would have held a grudge against Peter because of how he betrayed me, not just once, but three times in my time of need. But here you see Jesus cooking breakfast for Peter and the other disciples and giving Peter a special calling to take care of His people.
Our kids are going to mess up… a lot… because they are sinful human beings. But, just as Jesus showed grace and forgiveness to His disciples, we also need to forgive our kids and not hold their sins against them. Likewise, we need to apologize and make things right when we wrong our children in order to restore our relationship with them.
Here are three ways we can restore the relationship with our kids by teaching forgiveness:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
1. Teach our kids to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
While we shouldn’t “expect” our kids to never sin, we can’t dismiss their sin either. When our kids do something wrong, they will naturally have feelings of guilt that they do not know how to handle if they don’t learn to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Sin puts a barrier between them and God and between them and us. By teaching our children to admit when they do something wrong and ask for forgiveness, both to God and to us, we are teaching them the valuable lesson of restoring their relationships. When they are young, we can have them repeat something like this: “I am sorry for yelling at you. That was wrong. Will you forgive me?” This skill will help them immensely in life.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)
2. Restore the relationship by forgiving Our kids.
Once our kids ask for forgiveness, they must learn to receive forgiveness. We can demonstrate forgiveness by saying things like, “Jesus loves you and forgives you, and I forgive you too,” so they will learn to understand and receive this forgiveness daily. We can give them a hug and show them that we love them in some tangible way. We should also let their past wrongs go by not bringing them up at a later time. Jesus demonstrated this with his disciples. Forgiving does not mean that our children shouldn’t receive a consequence for what they did that was wrong, but there should always be a restoration of the relationship by telling our kids we love them and forgive them.
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
3. Ask for forgiveness when we mess up.
There are times when we know we wronged our kids, and we need to apologize to make things right. Other times our kids may feel hurt or frustrated, but we are unaware of what caused this frustration. In those instances, we can ask them if we did something that hurt their feelings or frustrated them. Then we can listen without being defensive and learn what we say or do that they perceive in a negative way. Then we need to apologize that they were hurt by our remark or action and become more mindful and sensitive to their perceptions. This will prevent resentment from building up in their hearts. When we humble ourselves, admit to our children how we wronged them, and ask them for forgiveness, we are doing a beautiful thing. We are restoring the relationship with our children, and we are demonstrating what it looks like to walk in humility and ask for forgiveness.
When we go through this restoration process with our kids, God will use it to keep our relationship with our kids strong and healthy. We are showing our kids that we will always love them, as Jesus does, and we want to restore the relationship when it is broken. They will then be more apt to be open and vulnerable with us, and our relationship with them will deepen.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)