The New York Times ran an interesting opinion piece this weekend: “Raising a Moral Child.” It was a good piece filled with interesting advice. The principles the author gleaned from various studies easily translated into practical action items parentscould implement in their homes:
- Praise the character behind the action.
- Teach children to feel guilt, not shame, when they misbehave.
- Model good behavior.
And yet, something felt… incomplete. Not with the article itself, mind you – but for us as believers. After all, it’s a secular newspaper and not a Christian devotional. But the “end goal” of parenting is not simply to raise a “moral” child.
Of course we want kids who, like the author described, are “kind, compassionate and helpful.”
But as Christians, we were meant for even more. After all, Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could be “moral” or manage our sins more effectively.
A Better Goal than Morality
Jesus died so we could be set free from sin. He gave His life to make us into new creations and God’s children, no longer apart from Him.
To preach anything else is to deny the Gospel, which shows us that man is not justified by his works, but by faith.
My friend Dr. Al Mohler has it right when he writes:
We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” [Gal. 4:4-5]
That line – “we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners” – can be especially convicting to us as parents when we realize our children are sinners. That’s why, as desirable as raising moral kids can be, that can’t be our primary goal as Christian parents. Rather, we need to be concerned with showing them Jesus, the One who will make their hearts right and who will give them His righteousness.
There’s no better time to start introducing our children to the Gospel message of grace and salvation than Holy Week and the celebration of this Easter weekend.