Last week we talked about the cultural lie of self-esteem. This week I want to talk about the opposite side of that coin—what I’ll call the “dirty-sinner” lie. This one often comes from within the walls of churches or “Christian” seminars. This is the idea that we must tear down our children to keep them humble and aware of their sin. Plus, we’re reminded that God loves everyone the same, so no one is special, and if you think you’re special, you’re just pride-filled and conceited—and very displeasing to God.
This one may not be quite as popular in our culture, but it is there, and I think it is hurtful and harmful.
- We are all sinners. This is NOT a lie. This is a truth straight from scripture (Romans 3:23). However, how do we communicate that to our children? How do we think about it with our own lives? Do we create crippling shame where God wants simple repentance? The abuses of this truth which turn it into a lie come from resisting grace. The whole reason God shows us we are sinners is so we will reach out for His forgiveness and grace. He responds with 1 John 1:9: But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (NLT) and Romans 8:1: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT). When we don’t embrace the grace, we fall into a works mentality and a wrong understanding of God’s heart. Worse yet, we put shackles on our own hearts and the hearts of our children by putting the burden of measuring up to perfection. We change the Gospel into a false Gospel. We build up superstition and all kinds of wrong theology when this happens. And we are on dangerous ground here.
- No one is special? I think we must come back to our uniqueness here. God has a unique plan for each of our lives that begins with having a real relationship with Him. He does not love me more than He loves you. He does not love you more than He loves me. He does not love us more than He loved Stephen who was martyred or less than He loved Solomon who had wisdom and riches. So, yes, in that sense, no one is special. However, just as a parent loves each child equally, we love our children uniquely. We have a special relationship with each child. I always tell each of my kids that he or she is my favorite. They know I do that, and they also know it is true. I just love each one so much and in such a unique way, each is my favorite, as silly as that sounds. With God, we are all completely known and completely loved. However, discerning God’s will and plan for each of our individual lives is real. We may have a calling on our lives that we need to obey. We may need to step out of our comfort zone to follow Christ fully. In that sense, we are each unique and all are equally special.
I’ve seen and experienced this lie taken to the extremes. When I had my first child, I read a book that told me how my child was born evil, and every cry was simply an evil manipulation. I should not respond to those cries but begin training that child to eat when I wanted her to eat, etc. Thankfully, I recognized the lies, and I threw the book away.
I have also been a pastor’s wife for over 30 years. In those years, I’ve been told I’m not a good pastor’s wife because I don’t fit into the expectation box someone has for me. Thankfully, I have a husband who never bought into the legalism or the “two for the price of one” mentality of the ministry. I’ve never had to be anyone other than who God created me to be in ministry. I’ve had friends in the ministry who fell into the trap, and marriages and ministries have been ruined because of it.
We must see that these lies are not benign. They are active and destructive. We need to help our children understand they are sinners just as we are, and that we all need a Savior. Then we can tell them the wonderful story of Jesus. We need to help them to walk in the freedom of grace and mercy. Will we step to the side a little too far at times in trying to help them understand? Probably. But we keep trying to help them know the truth and let that truth set them free from the lies and sin.
The truth is, with the self-esteem lie and the dirty-sinner lie, we are setting our children up to be obsessed with themselves! That’s not supposed to ever be our focus. We are supposed to be focused on God and ministry. The most depressed and dysfunctional people in the world are those focused on self. The happiest are those who are helping others and finding purpose in serving others. It’s what God has called us to do and how He created us to be.
Here is the truth of what our salvation and His grace has brought us:
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8, NLT)
Want to learn more about how harmful some of these beliefs can be on a child? Here is a video to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj6Wv-1I4v4