A precious young mom shared with me last week that she had to ask her son and the rest of his eleven year old soccer teammates for their forgiveness. She loves the Lord, loves His Word, but in a moment of frustration, she lost her cool in front of the team. The next week, she gathered them together so she could look each one in the eye and explain why she needed to ask their forgiveness. Many of these kids are from non-Christian homes and had probably never seen or heard a gospel demonstration like that!
Forgiveness, just like anything else we want our children to learn, must first be modeled by us. Ever meet a teen who is angry, bitter, tends to retaliate and hold grudges? Look at his parents. You’ll often (not always . . . I said “often”) find that he has “learned unforgiveness” from his parents.
If your home isn’t filled with the practice of forgiveness, you are preparing your child for a life of prison. I’m serious. Unforgiveness leads to a prison of bitterness. Check out Matthew 18:21–35 and Hebrews 12:14–15.
Forgiveness isn’t for Wimps
The biblical standard of forgiveness seems impossible to keep . . . it is unbelievably high:
[box]“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)[/box]
[box]“Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)[/box]
Wow, Jesus is the standard and model for forgiveness!
The most important lesson I’ve learned in letting go of hurt is: I cannot keep the biblical standard of forgiveness . . . without returning to the cross and relying on His grace! That is the lesson our children so desperately need to learn at the youngest age possible.
Going to the cross, and focusing on the forgiveness offered by a sinless Savior, will provide your child the only perspective for understanding and offering forgiveness. Going to the cross will remind them of what really matters, so they can release the stuff that really doesn’t.
Most young children don’t harbor hurt or pick up grudges. Youngsters tend to forgive easily, but as they hit the adolescent stage, they’ve learned to be wary, and they don’t let go, forgive, or forget as quickly. Sometimes it helps to walk them through the process with a few questions that will help them loosen their grip:
♥ Is this temporary or eternal?
♥ Will this really matter a month from now, a year from now, in eternity?
♥ Who is benefitted by me hanging onto this?
♥ What is the worst that can happen if I let this go?
♥ Am I operating in fear or in faith by holding onto this?
♥ Who am I hurting by holding onto unforgiveness?
♥ How much did God forgive me?
♥ If I don’t forgive, but God is willing to forgive, what does that say about my heart?
Do you want your child to walk in the freedom of the forgiveness lifestyle? If you do, consider whether there is anything you need to ask them to forgive you for today.