Arriving at the Gospel
Now we have arrived at the gospel examples (numbers 5-8), and these are the ones directly related to the gospel of Christ—his death for our sin and his triumphant, death-conquering resurrection. And when these take root, the previous four suggestions I have given are given the power of the gospel.
5. Teach the children and model for them that their own sin is uglier than anybody they think is physically unattractive.
Sin is not an innocent mistake or a funny blunder or a noble flaw. Sin is ugly rebellion against God. Paul calls this sinful generation “a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15). The Bible uses words like “abomination,” and Paul describes fallen man in Romans 3:13, “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips.” Sin is abhorrent and ugly.
If our children are ever to grasp the gospel, they must grasp this about themselves. And we parents must! They and we are sinful—dreadfully sinful. Until this is seen and felt in some significant measure, the gospel will not be cherished.
Knowing the Depth of Our Sin
One way this relates to loving others different from us is this: When we are broken, not just because we do some bad things, but because we are morally and spiritually perverse and ugly, we will not be given to despise others for mere outward appearances that we may think are unpleasant.
But mainly the way this sense of sinfulness and moral ugliness works is to prepare us for the next act.
6. Teach the children that God loves them in spite of the ugliness of their sin and that he proved this by sending his Son to die for our sins and give forgiveness to all who would trust him.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the heart of the gospel. And it’s the deepest source of power for helping our children love others different from themselves.
So we say to our children, “You think they are unattractive or unpleasant? Remember, your sin—your sinful heart, just like mommy’s and daddy’s—is more unattractive and unpleasant to God than that person is to you. And God loves you. God sent Jesus, his own son, to suffer and die in our place, so that if we trust him, he forgives us all our sins and starts to make us into new and desirable people.”
“So if God has loved us this way, shouldn’t we love others this way too?”
7. Teach the children that because Jesus died for them and rose again, he becomes for them an all-satisfying Friend and Treasure.
Paul said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord ” (Philippians 3:8). To know Jesus—to have Jesus as my Savior and my King and my Friend is better than anything.
Help the children make the connection—and of course you have to make it for yourself—that if Jesus is this precious and this satisfying, then you don’t need to be afraid of anyone who’s different from you, and you don’t need to get your happiness by feeling superior to others or by putting others down. You have Jesus. And you are full. And you have something to share. So don’t turn away from people. Turn toward people.
Happy Enough in Jesus to Love Others
Help the children be so happy in knowing Jesus and in being forgiven by Jesus and being loved by God because of Jesus, that they spill over onto others freely with love, rather than getting their happiness by putting others down and running away from others.
Finally, to make sure that the children are grasping the gospel and how it works in their lives . . .
8. Teach the children to love others who are different from them, not in order to be accepted by God, but because they already are accepted by God because of Jesus.
When Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation,” he adds, “because it is God who works in you.” And when he says in Philippians 3:12, “I press on to make it my own,” he adds, “because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
In other words, the efforts that we teach our children to make in working out their salvation—in being good and holy and kind and loving—don’t make them Christians. These efforts don’t get God on their side. If they have been grasped by the gospel, they make these efforts because God is already on their side. And he is on their side because of what Jesus did for them, not what they do for him.
The Power of God in the Gospel
This is the power to love people different from ourselves. This is the key we give to our children. And above all this is the key to the grace that enables us to be this kind of parent. We live day by day from the love of God in the gospel of Jesus. May God grant our children to see it and in the power of it love others different from themselves.
- John Piper