college travels

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Teaching our Children God-Esteem

Recently I have been reflecting on the issue of self-esteem. I find myself drawn in two different directions.

Firstly, when talking to people about how they feel about themselves I feel that they must understand themselves in the light of Jesus revelation. That they are made in the image of God, they are part of God’s precious creation that he has pronounced to be “good”. Secondly, they have been important enough to God to send Jesus to die for them, more precious than jewels. Jesus has taken away a Christian’s sin & guilt, they should feel liberated from the old sinful self. They are spotless and blameless.

I have really emphasised our worth in Jesus eyes, that we should feel happy and at peace as a child of God. This is the message of grace.

Because of this emphasis on grace, when my daughter recently was convicted of her sin and wept over her failure before God I felt really uncomfortable. She was a child, she should feel happy and good about herself. I wanted to say to her, don’t worry about that, God forgives you, it doesn’t matter too much. I wondered later on how much my thinking about self-esteem was shaped by the bible and how much was shaped by a culture that emphasises the right to be happy over everything else, the cult of self-esteem.

Meanwhile, I was studying the Evangelical revivals of the 18th century and the response of children. There are many stories of children coming under real repentance and terrible conviction of their sin and their condemnation before God. Do I emphasise God’s grace so much, especially to children that it becomes cheap grace rather than a costly grace that takes away the punishment for our real wickedness and evil. How do we speak to children about their rebellion against God? To Christian children about being both sinners yet justified? Are we encouraging them to continue with repentant hearts, in the ongoing struggle with the sinful nature?

Ian Fry at the Theology of Youth Ministry conference said a wonderful thing that has helped me in thinking about these issues. "We want to hold up to children not a mirror (as the world does) but a window." Their life’s goal should not be their own happiness, but the honour and glory of their heavenly Father who made them. This is the way to genuine lasting joy.

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  • Thanks Ruth, that's really insightful. I was having similar reflections during a scripture lesson on anger once. I decided that rather than teaching how to deal with anger (which was the curriculum), I would spend the time talking about God's anger at sin.

    I agree, I felt the pang of not wanting to upset the kids too much, and came away feeling like I'd jumped to grace as a way of saying 'it's ok! you're not that bad!'

    By Anonymous matt jacobs, at 6:47 pm  

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