I want my kids to be good people. I want them to know right from wrong. I want them to stand up for the oppressed, the bullied, and the outcast. I want them to be influencers for good in the world. Doesn’t every parent want the same?
But as I teach my kids the Bible every night during dinner, I can’t help but see something troubling about who they will become. No matter what I do, how I shape them, what I say to them, they are on an inevitable path to becoming sinners who will fail to do that right thing and will enjoy doing the wrong thing. And I can’t do anything to stop it.
I can teach biblical values. I can pray for them to resist temptation and pursue righteousness. But I know they will sin. And that scares me because I understand how lousy sin tastes and how addictive it is. I know because I haven’t been able to stop sinning, and I never will this side of heaven.
It takes three chapters into the Bible before I have to explain what sin is. We can’t even get to the first biblical meal without temptation slithering into the Garden. We can’t see the first Edenic bite without the breaking of the relationship between God and man. The Lord expels Adam and Eve, and it gets worse from there.
I have to explain why one brother would murder another in chapter 4—to my three sons.
The world somehow worsens, and in Noah’s day, God sends a flood to remove all but one family. It takes no time for Noah to mess up once the waters reside, proving sin is eradicated only in the removal of humanity, not in the removal of bad humanity.
Some people then build a tower thinking they can reach God. I teach the boys about irony, as God comes down to see the creation in Babel. I explain how pride exalts, and that God will humble.
Genesis 1-11 shows us how God created the world, and how we messed up his creation. Genesis 12-50 shows us God’s plan for the world. I explain grace flowing from the heavens, mercy dripping from the throne, the everlasting arms underneath.
Then God calls Abram. We have another fresh start. But Abram isn’t spared from sin either. He carries it with him to the Promised Land, spewing it all over the place as he struggles to trust God’s goodness. He follows and falls and rises again on the wings of faith by the power of God to trust him once more. We have in him the first case study in the Christian life. And it’s messier than I wish it to be.
My boys listen and interact and respond. They understand sin is bad and God is good. They learn the path Abraham should have taken. Don’t go to Egypt. Stay in the land God provided. Refuse the riches of the world. Receive the priest’s blessing.
But they will commit their own sins. They already have, and more are on the way.
I can’t stop it.
It’s my fault.
It’s Abraham’s fault.
It’s Noah’s fault.
It’s Adam’s fault.
But it’s God’s plan.
I can’t reroute their sins to me.
I can’t undo the pain they’ve already felt.
I can’t remove the stain with which they were born.
But Jesus can.
So I point them to him, knowing that he’s the answer to all my desires for their goodness. He is their goodness.
I leave them in the only hands that can wash, praying for the flood of mercy that springs forth.