Preaching the Gospel to Our Kids: Dealing with Sinful Anger

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

One of my dearest friends on earth is Lou Priolo. He has been a friend and mentor to me for nearly fifteen years. He and his wife Kim are precious to us, prayer partners for us, and insightful counselors. He and I were 'instant messaging' last week about some anger issues I noted in my oldest. He's nine. Lou asked me if had read his book The Heart of Anger yet. He recommended my wife and I read the first four chapters and then contact him again for more specific applications. That's our goal for the next two weeks here at home.

My conversation with Lou brought to mind some thoughts I had written down previously concerning the most fundamental place at which to begin to break the vicious cycle of sinful anger in our kids. The first place this must begin is with the parents' and their own self-control over their sinful anger.

The vicious cycle is all to common. The parent is provoked to sinful anger by the child's willful disobedience, disrespect, rebellion, etc. and the parents, after having told their child 'a hundred times already' respond in sinful anger. This is, many times, where our children learn it. Right? Both the child's sinful anger and the parent's as well, can and must be broken with the gospel.

This vicious cycle must be broken or else our relationship with our kids...

1. ...will be like a roller-coaster with parents in a good mood when the kids are obedient, and parents in an angry mood when the kids are disobedient.

2. ...will consequently become performance oriented with kids behavior motivated by not making the parents angry or putting them in another bad mood.

Let's face it, parents. We are more mature than our children, aren't we? And that means we should be able to exercise greater control over our own sinful hearts from reacting sinfully to our sinful children. Kids are not as mature as we are, and they must learn to develop that control over their hearts and mouths.

But they won't learn it without the gospel!

  • The gospel trains them how to deal with their hearts.
  • It teaches them to identify their failures in light of God's standard of perfection and holiness.
  • It teaches them humbly confess their sinfulness.
  • It teaches them that the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, when He Himself was a child, is wonderfully applied to them if they have trusted in Him.
  • It teaches that God's view of them, despite their sin, is that of righteous in Christ.
  • It teaches them that God graciously and mercifully forgives their sinful anger.

And all of this combined has the strange and mysterious force of weighing heavily on their little hearts so as to make them want to stop.

But the training must be done with our lips AND our lives, exemplifying how to deal with sinful heart desires with the power of the gospel. When they see us struggle like them, confessing, asking forgiveness, repenting, and applying Christ to our sin, they will learn more by that than by what we teach them with our words and 'lectures.'

For more encouragement in this area see the post, "Preaching the Gospel to our Kids: Pointing to Christ's Obedience as Their Substitution."

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