One of our great challenges as parents is to communicate to our kids both the seriousness of sin and graciousness toward sinners (like us!) that reflects God’s love and compassion. On the one hand, we’d like our children to clearly perceive obvious sin with black-and-white clarity; on the other hand, we’d like to help them to avoid becoming arrogant, judgmental legalists.
Younger kids, especially, tend to think in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.” We can fall into the trap of portraying those who believe or behave differently from us—even sinfully—as “bad guys” in our children’s eyes. And kids eager to demonstrate their knowledge of the universe sometimes rush to judgement of everyone on the other side of the fence.
Jesus warned the legalists of his day not to become volunteer judges, especially when blind to their own sinfulness. He stated clearly that a consequence of taking up the judge’s gavel is to suddenly find yourself the one on trial in God’s eyes and/or the eyes of others. In the next breath, though, He taught that there is an appropriate time to try to help “remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Jesus also warned that it is sometimes just pointless to “cast the pearls” of God’s truth about right and wrong in front of those who have no interest or ability to hear that truth from His Word. At least, that’s one take on His teaching about pearls and pigs in Matthew 7:6.
As you may have guessed, we’re pulling this week’s conversation starters from part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 7:1-13. We hope a few of the following questions might stir up a good conversation between you and your child about sin, judgement, and God’s grace.
- Do you know anyone who tends to think of Christians as judgmental people? Do you think we are judgmental?
- Do you think that label—or that idea that we are “intolerant”—is always fair? Is it sometimes fair? Should we be intolerant of sin? Of people who sin? Of our own sin?
- What does it mean to you when someone is described as judging others? What does that look like? What does that feel like?
- Do you think it is judging to say that some things are right and others are wrong? Is it judging to believe that certain actions or attitudes are sinful? Why or why not?
- How is believing that something is sinful different from “judging” people who do that sin? Is it different?
- Out of everyone in the universe, who is the one Person that is absolutely qualified to judge human beings for sin?
- Why is God qualified to judge us for our sin?
- Why are we not qualified to “pronounce judgement” on others in our own authority?
- Will God ever judge a Christian for his or her sin? Why or why not? Does He forgive us because we deserve to be forgiven or because Jesus paid for our sin with His blood? If we are forgiven people who have received God’s grace, should we be more or less likely to be judgmental to others? Should we be proud or humble about being included in God’s family?
- Why do you think Jesus and others in the New Testament warn us about judging each other? Do you think Jesus meant we should never have an opinion about what is right and wrong or what is wise and foolish?
- How do you tend to think about people who are obviously judging you or others? Do we tend to want to “judge them back”?
- Jesus also warned us about trying to correct other people’s smaller wrongs when we’ve got huge ones of our own? Why do you think it’s so hard for us to see our own sin, even when that sin is obvious to other people?
- Would you say you are open to having people talk to you about sin in your life? Why or why not? Is it “judging” if someone who cares about you points out a problem with your choices or attitudes?
- Sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to talk to other people about their sin. Is it possible to do that without judging them? How do you know when you should or should not talk to people about sin?
- Jesus warned about casting pearls before pigs. He seemed to be saying that we should not waste our time talking about valuable things to people who can’t or won’t listen. How does that fit with choosing who we should or should not talk to about sin?
- Do you think its possible for us to hate sin with real emotion and love people who do sin with real compassion? At the same time? How could we do better at that as a family?