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How to Raise a Little Pharisee

2. In the area of engaging with unbelievers.

One of the most difficult tensions is raising our children to love sinners on the one hand and yet live their lives in Spirit-directed holiness on the other hand.

There have been times when my kids have heard of or even seen conversations about unbelievers and some of their lifestyle choices and have made some pretty harsh statements. Probably because they heard them from us. Probably because that’s how Christians often talk and think about those who have not yet found the grace, mercy and love of Christ.

It’s amazing how having children really filters your conversations and makes you think about the culture you are creating in your home and church and other environments.

To remedy this, we constantly have conversations about what our mission is on this earth. Why are we here? To look good or to love others into the Kingdom?

We constantly have to remind our children of their own desperate need for the gospel, that we need it as much as “that person” who seems so far from God.

I’m really deeply burdened by this responsibility. I think Satan can make great use of children raised in good Christian homes who avoid all the vices, and yet who have no ability to mingle with sinners and have no love in their heart for the people God has called them to reach.

We can easily raise little, green-housed, bubble-wrapped Jonahs who actually don’t want God to save those terrible “Ninevites.” It’s important for us to raise our children with gospel-informed values that will keep them from the heartache of sinful choices, and yet, if I’m not careful, I’ll raise my children in such a way that they have no impact in the world.

Jesus loved sinners. He ate with them. Spent time with them. Engaged in long conversations with them. He did say to sinners (like you and me, by the way), “Go and sin no more.”

But Jesus’ heart was brimming with love for the world. I want that to exist in my heart so much that it spills into my home and is caught like a virus by my children (John 8:11 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)]). Let’s raise children broken by their own need for the gospel and humble enough to know that, by the grace of God, there they would go.

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Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area.