Day 36: Forgiveness
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
The other day I was sick, tired, and lacking the minimum energy required just to be a parent. So I snapped at one of my sons, “Quit being stupid!” I instantly regretted my words. Truth be told he was just being silly, but I had used that word (forbidden in our house) to make him stop talking. My boys all laughed, thinking it funny to hear forbidden words (especially from daddy), but I knew it was wrong. I failed to say anything at the time, but it bothered me all night long.
So I went back to my son after he was already in bed and apologized: “Son, I’m sorry I spoke to you in that way. It was wrong and hurtful and I should not have said it. Will you forgive me?” I did not use my sickness as an excuse or cite his silliness as a trigger. He may have pushed my buttons, but they were still my buttons. I honestly confessed my sin and sought forgiveness. Then both my son and my God forgave me and I slept peacefully that night.
Dads, learn to seek your children’s forgiveness. It is not a sign of weakness, but strength to humbly admit when you are wrong. Teach your children that you are also a sinner in need of grace and model for them genuine repentance. You cannot expect them to forgive and be forgiven unless you show them how it’s done.
Secondly, instruct your children how to seek forgiveness. Do not settle for perfunctory platitudes: “Say sorry to your brother.” “Sorry, brother.” Instead, guide them through a proper confession: “Son, look your brother in the eye. Tell him why you are sorry and admit your wrong specifically. Don’t make excuses for your actions, but take full responsibility. Then ask your brother to forgive you and accept the consequences. Okay now, everybody hug.” Children are usually quick to move on, but watch for grudges or passive-aggressive behavior which reveal an unforgiving spirit. Lay a strong foundation now because the future holds more difficult tests than bumps on the head and sibling rivalry.
Finally, instruct your children how to forgive when they are sinned against. Forgiven sinners forgive sinners because they know the meaning of grace (e.g., Matt. 18:21-35). As Paul writes,
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3:12-14).
Dads, show your children how gospel harmony shapes the foundation of our forgiveness. God forgave our massive debt by sending his Son to die in our place. Though we had no credit with God, Christ’s payment wiped our debit clean. How then can we cling to a grudge or fondle bitterness when we truly grasp forgiveness? Any failure to forgive means we do not fully understand either the depth of our sin or the greatness of our Savior.
Dads, every time your children are wronged, you have a blessed opportunity to rejoice in the gospel as you lead them in forgiveness. Teach your children that forgiveness makes three promises: “I will no longer dwell on this issue in my mind, bring it up against you, or gossip about it with others.” Your children may be tempted to hold grudges, stew over past wrongs, or fling accusations: “You’re doing it again. Remember last time?” They may be tempted to gossip or slander against the one who wronged them. So train them that all such behavior will break their promise to forgive as God forgave them (Eph. 4:32). Although God still knows their sin, he never holds it against them once that sin is pardoned (Rom. 8:1). He does not shame them before others or stew over past wrongs. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him” (Ps. 103:11-13; see Prov. 28:13).
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your grace and mercy in forgiving my sin at the cross. Teach me to forgive my children when they disobey or disrespect me. Then help me to set their hearts on a gospel foundation, so they will humbly seek forgiveness from those they have wronged and mercifully offer forgiveness to those who have wronged them. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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