It had been another one of our difficult home-schooling days. Our then ten-year-old daughter was once again trying to control her younger brother. He resentfully pushed back, indicating he didn’t need a second mother. Corlette tried to suppress their bickering, but before long her teaching schedule was in shambles.
As I listened to their verbal sparring from another room, I realized that Megan was the major culprit that day. Playing the role of school principal, I took her into an adjacent bedroom to talk. As I sat down on the bed, she lay down on the floor at my feet, propping her head against a nightstand. She crossed her arms, and her body went rigid.
I could almost see the force field she had erected to fend off the impending lecture. Sensing another futile engagement, I silently prayed, “God, please help me figure out how to get through to her.”
A new approach came to mind. I gently asked her, “Megan, if Jesus were here, what do you think he would say to you?”
“Stop controlling your brother!” she sneered. She knew exactly what kind of lecture I would normally give at a time like this. But I was already on a different track.
“Well, he might get around to that eventually,” I responded, “but there’s something much more important he would say to you first.” I paused for a few moments to let her emotions cool.
“If Jesus were here right now, I think he would say this.” (Scriptures added for the benefit of the reader.)
Megan, I love you. I love you more than you can possibly imagine. I love you so much that before the world even began, I looked down through time and saw you, and I said, “You are mine.” (Eph. 1:4-6)
And then I made this beautiful world, with oceans and trees, and puppies and flowers … all the things I knew you would enjoy. At just the right time, I brought you into this world. I made you exactly the way I wanted you, with all your special gifts and senses to enjoy my creation. And I adopted you into this particular family, because I knew you’d be loved here, and you’d learn about my love for you. (Gen. 1:1-31; Ps. 139:13-16; Matt. 10:29-30)
But I also knew that you would have arguments with your family and you would struggle with sin. I knew that those sins would ruin your life and separate you from me for eternity. I didn’t want that … because I love you. (James 4:1-2; Eph. 2:12)
So two thousand years ago, I came down to earth as a baby. I grew up and lived a perfect life, so I could give you my spotless record. I then went up on a cross to die for all of your sins, including the ones you committed a few minutes ago in your classroom. (Luke 2:4-7; 1Cor. 15:3-4)
When my Father brought me back to life, I opened the way for you to have a new life, too, to put off your sins and to love the people around you the way I love you. (Rom. 6:5-7; Eph. 4:20-24)
And because I love you, Megan, someday I’m going to come back and get you. I’m going to take you to be with me in heaven, where you can enjoy a perfect relationship with me and with your family and friends forever and ever. (John 3:16; 1 Thess. 4:16-18)
As I paraphrased the unfolding of the gospel from Genesis to Revelation, my daughter visibly relaxed. The force field was coming down. So I closed with these words.
“Megan, this is what I would add as your daddy: ‘I love you too, because God has filled my heart with his love for you. And no matter what you do, I will always forgive you and will never stop loving you.’”
At that, the force field collapsed completely. Megan got up off the floor, lay down with her head resting on my lap, and said, “Daddy, please pray for me. I hate it when I control Jeff and make Mommy mad. Please ask Jesus to take away my sin.”
I could have lectured my daughter for an hour without ever penetrating that force field … as many futile conversations had proved. Yes, discipline is sometimes necessary. Yet all the Law can do is to expose and restrain sin; it does not have the power to change the heart.
But the gospel—the good news of how God has loved and saved us through the death and resurrection of his precious Son—is a force so powerful that it can penetrate the strongest of barriers. Not only with a child (at 21, Megan still relaxes when I bring her the gospel), but also with an irritated spouse, a discouraged friend, or a defensive co-worker.
It may not happen as quickly as it did with my daughter that day. But over time, when the gospel is shared and modeled again and again, it has the power to soften the hardest of hearts. As Romans 2:4 reminds us,
“God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.”
Reflection Questions (Most effective when shared with a friend; James 1:22-25)
- When people have offended us, why are we so inclined to lecture them on what they’ve done wrong and what they need to do to make things right?
- Do you see the gospel only as a ticket to heaven, or as good news we can share repeatedly to remind ourselves and others that God wants to free us more and more every day from the sins that damage our relationships (2 Cor. 3:18)?
- How does the transforming power of the gospel give you hope today? (2 Pet. 1:5-8; Eph. 4:20-24)
- Who could you encourage today by sharing this good news with them? (Rom. 1:16-17)
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© 2013 Ken Sande
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