How Do We Talk to Our Kids About Sin?

Last week my husband and I attended a concert. As we did the math, we realized this was the first concert we had been to together in our eight years of marriage (minus a few smaller concerts in conference settings with our youth group). As we stood waiting to get into the door a staff member announced that there were two lines—men on the left, and women on the right. My husband and I shared a confused glance, but obliged. Every concert attendee was then frisked before being allowed to enter the venue. Eight years ago security at a concert meant making sure a stalker did not harm the performer, but today it means keeping a murderer from committing a potential mass shooting. This world is full of reminders that we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world, even while trying to enjoy a concert date night.

As a parent, my initial reaction to this reality is to give in to the temptation to hide my son away for the foreseeable future. I want to protect him from news of bombings and clown stalkers, from the political attack ads flooding our television and our society’s focus on tearing others down. My nature is to live in the “what-if’s” and panic about the world he will grow up in. Some days these thoughts make me want to lock myself in a closet and hide from it all.

But I cannot protect him from sin; God’s Word is very clear about that. Understanding the source of evil in this world and teaching our kids to deal with its origins can shift our focus from worrying, to proactive actions that will help our kids make their way in our fallen world.

We are all sinners

Every one of us bears this label. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This “all” is all-inclusive, without a loophole or an exemption clause. I John 1:8-10 takes this truth a step further (in case there was any confusion):

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

To deny our guilty status is to call our Creator a liar.

No one teaches us to sin

Furthermore, we need to recognize that none of us learned our sin nature from someone else, but were all born this way. Go volunteer in your church nursery if you need some proof. You are likely to see hitting, biting, the taking away of toys, tears of anger at peers and more! We were all born disobeying God, and while others may teach us to expand our expertise in certain areas, we are accountable for our disobedience. Every one of our children has a sin nature, no matter how cute their smile may be.

Evil comes from within                    

Hiding our sons and daughters away indefinitely cannot protect them from sin, because the sin would be locked away with them. James tells us that man is “tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” “His own desire” is what leads to sin, and that desire is internal. While society tells us to listen to our hearts and claims that we are all good people inside, the Bible says differently. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” These powerful words make it clear that our sin comes from within. While our knee-jerk reaction to evil is to shelter our kids from it, we will soon realize that we cannot keep them from the unrighteousness in their own hearts.

Use evil to point to Christ

While it is our nature to deny or excuse our sin, great lessons can be learned by tackling the subject head on. We desire for our son to hear the Gospel so often that he knows it inside and out before he can even comprehend the truths within it. Each time our son is disciplined he knows that a conversation will accompany the punishment. We strive to help him connect the dots so that he learns more than just “do not steal toys from other boys and girls” but instead sees that selfishness motivates that sin—selfishness is the real problem. We then remind him that sins like selfishness separate him from God. This separation means that if we die without accepting God’s forgiveness for our disobedience we will spend eternity in Hell paying our debt for sin. The good news we can share with our children is that Jesus died to pay for our selfishness. He died to pay for our anger, our greed, and disrespecting our parents—His death covered it all.

We have noticed a change in our entire family since adding the gospel to our discipline. Remembering, hearing, and sharing the Gospel on a regular basis changes everyone’s focus. The good news of Christ’s death for our debt is that all we have to do is ask for the gift of eternal life. Simply accepting God’s forgiveness and living the new life He gives covers our sin with Christ’s perfect record.

Until Jesus returns we will have to deal with sin and its ramifications on this earth. While we cannot hide our children from the evil in the world, we can use their shortcomings and the examples in our world to point to their need of a Savior. As Jesus Himself prayed on the eve of His crucifixion, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” We cannot hide from the evil in this world, but we should share Christ every chance we get.