I was the good kid.
I’m not bragging, just stating more of a bland fact. Ask my parents. Ask my childhood friends. By all means I wasn’t perfect, but I was naturally wired to figure out what was expected of me and to do my best to stick to that plan. I didn’t like having authority figures upset with me (from my folks, to my teachers, to God himself), so I did what I could to keep them all happy and on my team. It was a solid approach to childhood and adolescence that worked well. I recommend it.
Then I became a parent.
I figured I’d raise good kids, too. Respectful, straight-A, piano-playing self-starters that methodically chipped away at all life’s expectations until they stood perfectly on their own two feet. And for the most part, we were on that track. I’ve got good kids.
Until my son hit the 5th grade, that is.
Fifth grade offers a whole new level of independence at my kids’ school, and my only son has spent the first few months of this new freedom exploring the wonders of mischief more than the accolades of rule-keeping. Let’s just say most of the meetings we’ve had (yes meetings plural) with his guidance counselor this fall have assured us that, while his heart is in the right place, his grasp of self-control….well, it really isn’t.
Which is really confusing for this “good kid” father. I mean, the good kids are celebrated, cheered, written about, given awards and paraded in front of others as examples of the way things ought to be. Who wouldn’t want to be a “good kid?” And the parents of good kids are admired as heroes (this kind of multigenerational virtue is good kid become good parent heaven). They don’t spend time on the phone apologizing to other kids’ parents for derogatory lunchtime insults (a fictional story I, uh, obviously made up, you know, just to make my point…yeah).
There’s a inherent danger in being a good kid and raising a good kid, and that’s this:
The kids we celebrate as “good christian kids” aren’t necessarily that way because they’ve been captured by the Gospel, they’re just the ones most naturally bent toward moralism and rule keeping. And because they’re naturally “good,” they often don’t even see their need for a Savior. Therein lies the danger.
All of us need a Savior.
As parents and authority figures, we love moralism and rule keeping, and that’s perfectly understandable. Good morals and respect for authority are quality virtues that should be praised. But let’s not forget that the prodigal son had an older brother who thought he’d earned the love of his father with his “good kid” behavior, yet completely missed his need for the gift of grace. It can take good kids a lot longer to realize what a mess they really are. Being blinded by my goodness is not, well, good.
Here’s the deal:
My “push the limits” son needs Jesus.
This “good kid” father needs Jesus.
Let’s make sure we celebrate the right thing in our lives and in our kids’ lives. Point them toward Christ, and He will make them good. Truly good. He’s the only one that can.