Teaching Forgiveness

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).

Is there a scarier passage in the Bible? God is “faithful and just” to forgive us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). But He also demands that we forgive others in the same manner. In fact, Jesus tells us that God’s forgiveness depends on our own humility: humbling ourselves to seek forgiveness for our sins and humbling ourselves to forgive others of theirs.

This is certainly difficult since it is not really in our nature to humble ourselves. Forgiving others does not always come naturally. It is more of a learned skill. As we grow in the Lord, and we understand the magnitude of God’s forgiveness, it becomes easier to extend the same grace to others.

As parents, what can we do to help our children learn this important skill? There is no fail-proof method for raising forgivers. But there are two very important things we as parents need to make sure our children understand.

First, we need to make sure they understand at an early age that we all need forgiveness. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all do things we should not do and fail to do things we should. Children need to know that their parents mess up. Sometimes it means humbling ourselves and asking our children for forgiveness. I’ll say this – I have to be better about extending grace to my children if I want them to know how to do the same for others. That leads to the next thing we need to help our children understand: what it looks like to forgive.

When it comes to parenting, I believe there is truth to “better caught than taught.” I have to believe that is true since I can give my kids the same directions 100 times without them being followed. Children – or at least my children – seem to learn more by watching and observing than by listening. We can talk about forgiveness in our home – and we should do that. But the words we say should serve as reinforcement for the actions our children have seen. The true impact is going to come when they see our example, forgiving those who have wronged us and extending grace whether or not it is deserved. Our children need to hear us say the words, “I forgive you.”

Kids are perceptive. They constantly analyze our actions. They are learning from us even when we do not feel like we are teaching. May they see us forgiving others just as God has forgiven us.

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