There is a story that the Bakoum people recount to their children. The story is of two fragile deer, a mother deer and a baby deer. These deer were frolicking through a lush green valley when one day the mother stops and looks seriously into the eyes of her offspring. Her tone takes on an air of seriousness when she explains that there are hunters who set traps in the valley to kill deer. She explains to her fawn that she must be very careful or else she could be entangled in a trap. The daughter deer laughs at her mother and calls her old fashioned saying that this is a progressive new world and things are like that no longer happen.
The next day the mother awakens and looks around, immediately noticing that her baby deer was not where she laid down last night. Suddenly the mother hears the voice of her fawn calling out to her from afar. The mother darts up and starts to run towards her voice.
She finally finds her, and out of breath, asks what the problem is. While the question is half-way out of her mouth, she looks down and sees that her daughter’s leg is mangled in a trap. The mother begins to cry and tells her daughter that there is nothing she can do to help her. She then hears the sound of the hunter coming to claim his pray. The mother hides herself only to watch the hunter mercilessly slaughter her fawn with a machete.
And what is the moral of this downer of a story? That children need to listen to the warnings of their parents. And if they do not, they will wander into serious evils that would have eternal repercussions. It may not be a feel-good story, but it is motivated from a heart of love and a desire to protect one’s child.
In the same way, I am convinced that our job as parents is to also warn our children of the wrath of God and the promise of eternal hell if they do not repent. This is not a feel-good message, but it is a message given out of a heart of love.
Living in France for a year, and now Cameroon, I have been able to look at American parenting through a different set of lenses and I think that in some circles we can be guilty of the following:
Making Excuses for our Children’s Sin
How many times have we said to ourselves or to others that our child’s misbehavior is due to the fact that they were tired/under a lot of stress/had a rough first year in an orphanage/etc.? I am not saying that the difficulties that we experience do not affect us as people, I am just wondering if we are serving the victim well if we ignore the fact that he too is a victimizer in need or repentance.
When we look at the Bible, we see the Lord justly repaying each sinner for the wrong that they had committed, regardless of their background or delicate physical state. For example, the Israelites were SLAVES who were beaten and whose little boys were in danger of being killed by their oppressors. But when they failed to believe in God’s power to help them defeat their enemies in their conquest of the promise land, God punished them by making them wander in the desert for 40 years. We do not see the Lord excusing this behavior due to their rough past in Egypt, but he instead gave consequences that were in appropriate measure to the offense.
Are we as parents doing the same? Or are we excusing certain behaviors for this reason or for that?
Mislabeling Their Sin
I also think we tend to mislabel our children’s issues. When they hit others, the Bible calls that violence whereas we may call it not handling conflict well. When they look us in the eye and say a half truth we might call it a little fib whereas the Bible calls it a lie. When they are consumed with themselves and cannot bear it when their brother or sister is praised, we just say that they feel a little left out whereas the Bible calls it jealously and selfishness. When they give us dirty looks and sulk when they are corrected, we may say that they are just overly sensitive when the Bible says that those who despise discipline are fools. When our kids consistently refuse to do their chores, we might say that they are just easily distracted whereas the Bible calls them lazy.
Maybe we avoid those condemning biblical terms in order to keep things positive around the house, but if we do that will our children see their need for a Savior? We do not need to be saved from feeling left out, but we do need to repent of jealously. In the same way we do not need to repent of being easily distracted but we do need to repent of laziness. I think that trying to keep things positive by not using biblical terminology for sin is actually harming to our children.
How Excusing and Mislabeling Sin Harms our Children
Vague, Powerless Prayers
Maybe the reason why our children are not repenting of specific sin in their lives is because we are not praying that they repent of specific sin and we are not confronting them in their sins. Jesus says in Luke 11:10“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” He gives us this promise to entice us to ask him for great things. If we are not being honest about where our children are at before the Lord, then we are not going to be praying for neither their salvation nor their repentance of specific sins. If we are just wishing them into Heaven, we are missing out on the great and effective tool of prayer that God uses to save sinners.
Blind to the Need for a Savior
Jesus said in Matthew 9:13 that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Do our children know they are sinners? Do we tell them? Or do we tell our children that Jesus loves them just the way they are? Are we leaving out the fact that God hates our sin so much he actually killed a man for it (or will punish the sinner in Hell forever because of it)? It is not the people with a healthy self-image who come to Christ, but instead it is those who know that they are bad and hopeless without a Savior.
Take, for example, the tax collector in Luke 18:13-14?
The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified…For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
This tax collector had an acute awareness of his sin and humbled himself before the Lord. And his reward was that the Lord promised to exalt him. If we want our children to be exalted and righteous before the Lord, the only way to that is through the cross. And the only thing that would drive them to the cross is the conviction that they too are lost in sin. And without knowledge of God’s law, there is little knowledge of sin. Are we as parents doing our job in holding the law up to their consciences?
To conclude, if I were the Devil, which I am not, and I knew of the power of prayer and of the Gospel preached to sinners, I would do everything in my power to ensure that Christian parents avoid both. I would convince them to focus on the peripheral issues that their children face, to the neglect of their greatest need of being reconciled to God. So, fellow parents, let us be like the deer at the beginning of this post who did her part to warn her offspring. Let us look them in the eye and warn them of the coming wrath if they do not repent and let us pray for their repentance.
Stacey is a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator. Right now she is working on the writing system for the Kwakum including how to mark tone. Literacy among the Kwakum is already beginning and translation is scheduled to begin in September 2019!
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Dave and Stacey Hare met at The Master’s College (now The Master’s University) in Santa Clarita, CA. They then went on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where they each received their MDivs. Also in Louisville, they adopted four kids from Ethiopia. Their first term on the field they spent learning French and Kwakum. For their first home assignment they each received a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics, Bible Translation from the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (now Dallas International University). They currently live in Cameroon, Africa where they serve as Linguists/Bible Translators among the Kwakum (aka Bakoum) people.