Christianity, Sin & Gentle Parenting

I recently received an email that said, in part:

I am writing in hope you can help me understand how you reconcile the fact that we are born sinners in need of a Savior with gentle parenting. I find it hard to understand how children who are sinners can be “trusted to make the right decision”. I know as a sinner myself I can often not be trusted to make the right decision. I also find biblical examples where sin has consequences. The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished. Can you help me understand how you and your husband reconcile those things? Thank you so much for your time.

It’s actually a question I’ve gotten fairly frequently, in various forms.  I’ve never fully answered it, but it wasn’t until this email that I realized why.  I can’t answer it.  And I don’t mean to be contrary or disrespectful when I say that. It’s just that I am viewing this, and living it, from an entirely different paradigm.  I believe in gentle parenting largely BECAUSE of my faith, not in spite of it.  So for me, there is nothing to reconcile.

First, this sentence:  “I find it hard to understand how children who are sinners can be “trusted to make the right decision”” is built on the (common) misconception that someone who does not punish does not discipline, and that someone who believes in gentle parenting must just leave kids to their own devices, hoping and trusting that they’ll do the right thing.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Truly leaving your kids to make all their decisions on their own with no parental guidance is permissive parenting…. which is very much the opposite of what I write about. Gentle parenting is based on relationship.  It’s based on communication and connection and gentle guidance and partnership.  Do my kids make bad choices sometimes? Sure!  We all do. That’s why we have parents, and other loved ones, and God, and a conscience, and a moral compass… to guide us, to help keep us accountable as we navigate the world, and yes, to offer us grace and forgiveness when we screw up.

Second, “The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished” is just not something that I subscribe to or believe.  I believe that the entire Gospel message is based on love, and grace, and forgiveness.  It’s about “God so loving the world that he sent his only begotten son….”  It’s about the fact that it’s because of “grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…”  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I have been given FAR more grace and forgiveness than I deserve.  I screw up daily.  I screw up hourly.  There’s a better than average chance that I’ll make a poor decision before I finish writing this blog post.

But here’s the thing:  God hasn’t given up on me.  I am cherished exactly as I am.   I am loved. Unconditionally.  I am forgiven.  Again and again.  God believes in me and trusts me, and knows that because of those things I want to do better.  I want to be the person He created me to be.

That’s the kind of parent I want to be for my own kids.  If I can offer even a fraction of the love and grace that God extends to me, it’ll be a step in the right direction.  My guide (in all things, but particularly as a parent) is Jesus.  Jesus was, of course, never a parent, but you know how he treated kids?  With kindness.  With gentleness.  And with more patience than I could ever hope to muster.

And finally, as to sin having consequences:  Yes, bad decisions have consequences.  I’ve made enough of them myself to know this much is true. But life deals out those consequences all by itself.  And God?  God gives second chances.

I figure that’s the least I can offer my own kids.

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Filed under bible, faith, gentle discipline, gentle parenting

11 Responses to Christianity, Sin & Gentle Parenting

  1. Amy

    I love how you answered the question. I was perplexed when I read this part of it: “The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be
    punished” because I don’t believe that either and I forget that so many Christians do. I totally agree with you – love, grace,
    forgiveness – and second chances. Thanks for writing this. 🙂

  2. Elexa Dawson

    Thank you for sharing. My thoughts are very much along the same lines. Too many people have been too easily swayed by the “born evil” pseudo-gospel. As you know, this is what the baby-training authors preach. We were born in HIS image, and that did not change in ‘the fall.’ If anything, the Image of God just got a little dirt on it, but it needs nothing more than grace to be ‘cleaned up.’

  3. Jen C mama of 2

    So well said!!!!!
    You said everything I have wanted to say but have been unable to articulate. I may print this out to hand to the next person that asked me, “what about sparring the rod?”

  4. Guest

    I personally think there is some truth in him/her saying that “the entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished.” It could have been phrased a little better (sin needing to be punished is by no means the entire basis of the gospel), but why else would Jesus take our place on the cross if not for a need of punishment? There is no grace or mercy if we don’t first deserve death which is what our sin demands of us. The gospel is that Jesus took our punishment on the cross so that we would no longer be held under it.

    You are right in saying that the gospel is based on love, grace, and forgiveness. I mean to only indicate that the reason there is a gospel (“good news”) is because there was first “bad news”. We have been given a second chance only because we messed up a first.

    I realize this was off-topic from the purpose of the article, but thought should be addressed. However, if I’m wrong, I would definitely like correction.

    • I would agree with you. But I would go one step further. I think in order to reconcile gentle parenting with our sin nature, it’s best to put together BOTH parts of the equation. They are dependent on each other.

      “The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished, yet because of grace you have been saved through faith; and that not
      of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that
      no one may boast..”

      So there is this gaping hole of death called “sin”, that has fully been covered by this amazing thing called “grace”.

      Because of His death, we are awash in the tide of His grace.

      What a gift!

  5. DJ

    personally, I wonder whether “born into sin” means sinful by nature – because no one who looks at a newborn baby truly believes that – or born into sinful circumstances, to include imperfect parents, who screw our kids up. I know that I can clearly see the marks of my parenting screw-ups in my child’s behaviors. They are so clearly traceable. (I’m a psychotherapist so to be fair I’m somewhat trained to see the connections, but when you are sensitive to it, you can see it. It’s just that it’s really hard to face.)

    • Tom

      Good question DJ! God sees two people on Earth. Two family lines. You are either in Adam or reborn – a miracle called being born again – in Jesus’ family line. If you are of the Adamic line you are already condemned.. If you are of Christ’s line you are not under condemnation. As for the baby, hmm, I can only say that each time I heard smart theologians talk about Children being saved while young were pretty convincing.

  6. Kirsty

    Jen thank God for you! I cried when I read your post. Spot on. If only people could move out of fear and into the freedom of Christ.

  7. Jenni Davenport

    I love this post. Grace and love and forgiveness are hugely lacking in this world. Shine bright, my friend.

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