in(no)cent

“Let me ask you: With whom do you most identify in the events of this dark day (the cross)?…Let me tell you who I identify with. I identify most with the angry mob screaming, “Crucify Him!” That’s who we should all identify with. Because apart from God’s grace, this is where we would all be standing, and we’re only flattering ourselves to think otherwise. Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.” — C.J. Mahaney, Christ our Mediator

I sat with a couple this week who told me that their beautiful, gregarious, and chubby new 4-month old baby-feetdaughter was in no special place of neediness as far as eternity was concerned.  They were convinced, at a very basic level, that she was completely innocent.  How could she have committed or even understood sin? She is not, they reasoned, old enough to make a decision.  Too young to take sides.

At so many levels, this sounds right and true.  An infant dies at a young age, and we comfort ourselves that they are in the presence of God based solely on the fact of their innocence – their utter inability to have sinned.  Sweet comfort.

It is difficult for a pastor to look a young couple in the eye and tell them that their beautiful, cooing infant is a sinner.  And yet the Scriptures are clear: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  David – the man after God’s own heart – declared, in Psalm 51:  “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (verse 5)  Sorry folks, unfortunately your cutie ain’t so beautiful after all.

Fortunately, these young believers are hungry to learn and grow and were gratefully responsive to the clarity of the Scriptures.  Especially when the little lady began to scream maniacally for some sustenance.  I took a deep breath, thankful that bad tidings did not land me on my ear in the Koi pond out front.

Our culture often tells us that it is good, right & essential to build a child’s self-esteem by telling them about all of the good that is in them.  Unfortunately, this posture does not do justice to the truth of the Gospel, which clearly defines for us the boundaries and extent of depraved mankind: namely, all of us from conception to the grave. (Rom 3:23; 5:12-21)  Neither does this point of view do justice to the utter heinousness and evil of sin.  What the Gospel requires from us is a depth of sorrow for our sin that leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:10).  Rarely do any of us feel as bad as we should about our sin.  Only when one (including a child) feels deep sorrow & grief for their sin, are they able to truly grasp the truth & beauty of forgiveness found in the cross.

So don’t hesitate to affirm your kids and speak good words of love and affirmation to them.  They are beautiful children, created in the image of God.  Upbuild them.  Speak love.  But don’t hesitate to speak truth.  You will do no favors for your children by withholding the truth of their own sinful natures from them.

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