Lead Them to Repentance and Faith
In Genesis 39:9, Joseph resisted committing adultery with Potiphar’s wife. He said, “There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” If Joseph hadn’t resisted and ultimately fled this temptation, the resulting adultery would have been sin against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18), against Potiphar, and against Potiphar’s wife.
But Joseph doesn’t mention any of those parties in this verse. He calls the potential sin a “great wickedness” and “sin against God.” The harm to himself and Mr. and Mrs. Potiphar isn’t denied, but it is minor compared to how great a wickedness it would be before God.
This should change how we think about our sins and the sins of others. Take parenting as an example. When our children are mean to others, or covet what belongs to another kid, or bear false witness by lying or by not putting a charitable construction on something said or done, or dishonor their parents, or sin in any other way, who is the party most offended? Their parents? The ones they sinned against? The answer is God. Sin is a great wickedness to a holy God.
That means if Christian parents only approach bad behavior with the goal of behavior modification, then they are missing the distinctly Christian aspect of parenting. If a child’s misdeeds are ultimately sins against God, then parents also need to lead the children to daily repentance and faith.
This isn’t just for parents, it’s for all people in the Body of Christ. As we walk in daily repentance and faith, let us confess our sins to one another and receive forgiveness from God as our neighbor proclaims it to our contrite hearts.
Morality is definitely part of the Christian life—knowing the good and doing it, and knowing the bad and not doing it. But good morals are not what makes or keeps someone a Christian. As God works daily repentance and faith in our hearts He sustains our faith through His sure word of the forgiveness of our sins.
Here are examples of immoral parenting, moral parenting, and repentance-and-faith parenting. The length of each description correlates both with the amount of parental effort required and with the quality of Christian instruction the child is receiving from the parent.
Immoral parenting: brother is mad and pushes sister. Parent does nothing.
Moralistic parenting: brother is mad and pushes sister. Parent scolds brother, assigns some appropriate consequence, and instructs brother to apologize to sister and be nice.
Repentance-and-faith parenting: brother is mad and pushes sister. Parent scolds brother and reminds him that God’s fifth commandment is “You shall not kill,” which also means “You shall not hurt or be mean.” Parent reminds brother that by pushing sister he has sinned against God and broken His commandment. Parent invites brother to pray a simple prayer to God confessing his sin and asking for forgiveness. If brother loves God and is sorry, he prays something like, “Dear God, I’m sorry for breaking Your commandment. Please forgive me.” Parent becomes God’s mouthpiece of forgiveness to the child, saying something like, “Almighty God our Heavenly Father has had mercy on you and has given His only Son to die for you, and for His sake forgives all your sin. You are a baptized child of God and your sin is washed away” (or use simpler words). Brother is truly forgiven even if he still feels bad for breaking God’s commandments. Brother needs a hug from the parent. Parent hugs brother and directs brother how to go make it right with sister and how to do the right thing next time.
Christian parenting involves both moralistic redirection and leading the offending child to repentance and faith. If sin isn’t framed as the offense it truly is against God, parents will be overwhelmed and frustrated with disobedience, because they will see it as violations of their own will.
When sin is reframed as violations of God’s will then the parent will still at times be overwhelmed and frustrated, but there will also be times when God comforts parents like He comforted Samuel. When Samuel was displeased with the Israelites’ demand for a king God told him, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me.” I find that I take my children’s disobedience personally until I lead them to repentance and faith. When I remember to direct their eyes beyond my rules to God’s commands, I become less defensive, less angry, less crazy, and very eager to see them reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
If you’re not a parent with kids at home, Joseph’s framing of sin as great wickedness against God is still applicable. Your sins against others are really against God. Repent and believe the gospel! Others who sin against you are really sinning against God. Pray that they would be reconciled to God and that unity may be restored.
There is hardly anything sweeter than announcing God’s forgiveness to a sorry sinner. Don’t miss out on this gift! Lead others to repentance and faith and humble yourself to repent and believe as well.