It must have felt like the end of the world for my son. The deal he and I brokered a couple weeks back had already been broken. His mom had already notified me as to how upset he was. What Jacob needed in that moment was forgiveness, not a lecture on personal responsibilities. It was then that I was reminded of the importance of forgiveness inside the family.
Our family has a wonderful Labrador Retriever named Nelli that is four human years old. She is an outside dog, but don’t worry, she is very well cared for. She has acres of woods in which to roam, endless supplies of food and water, and a warm, dry building in which to escape from the rain and cold. Each evening, I put Nellie up in her doghouse, which is the Taj Mahal of doghouses, and let her out to roam early each morning.
Enter the deal made with our son Jacob. Jacob has wanted the German Shepherd for a long time. I’m not sure where his affinity to German Shepherds started, but he’s made it clear he wants one. About two weeks ago, I made a deal with Jacob. The deal was simple. He had to take complete care of Nelli for one month and then we would look into getting him a German Shepherd. This means he was responsible to provide Nelli with food and water, play with her, work on basic dog training with her, and check her in & out of her Taj Mahal each day.
Two weeks into the deal, Jacob forgot the let Nelli out of her doghouse one morning. Luckily, I was still at home, so a simple text message from my wife solved the dilemma. It solved the dilemma for my wife and me, but a serious concern was brewing in the heart and mind of Jacob. He wants a German Shepherd so badly, and he knew he had now broken the deal we made. A simple mistake on his part. He forgot to let Nelli out of her house, just as I’ve done a few times in the four years we’ve had her.
As his dad, I had a choice to make. I could lecture him about personal responsibilities and the importance of keeping his word. Or I could offer him forgiveness for an offense which I’ve made myself. My wife later send me another text message explaining how upset Jacob was about forgetting his responsibilities. At that point, the right choice was crystal clear for me.
Not only did I need to offer forgiveness to my son, but I also needed to clearly communicate forgiveness to him. I didn’t want him to continue to worry that I would hold the mistake against him and ultimately decide against letting him have a German Shepherd. Additionally, clearly communicating forgiveness to my son helps him to better understand the concept of forgiveness.
Forgiveness demonstrates love
Love is a verb. To demonstrate love, action is required. In this situation with Jacob, I had the opportunity to demonstrate my love for him by offering forgiveness. His mistake wasn’t an offense to me. At most it was simply a breaking of the deal that he made with me – a breaking of his word if you will.
Jacob’s fear was that his mistake would eliminate his chance of getting a German Shepherd. Offering forgiveness allowed me to demonstrate that my love for him isn’t dependent upon his perfection. We all make mistakes; we are all sinners. Yet, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us. I think Jacob better understands Christ’s forgiveness and love after our little text exchange.
Forgiveness defeats legalism
Legalism is a falsehood that has been battled throughout the history of Christianity. Many of the epistles found in the New Testament address the false teaching of legalism. Legalism is the simple notions that righteousness is gained by following the law.
Our children, especially those raised in the church, run the risk of connecting their standing with Christ to their adherence to the law. Forgiveness defeats legalism by demonstrating that love is grant regardless of offense against the law. My deal, or law, with Jacob was that he would take care of Nelli every single day for a month. He failed to abide by that law when he forgot to let Nelli out of her doghouse. Legally, Jacob is guilty. But lovingly, he is forgiven.
Forgiveness exemplifies Jesus
I’ve heard it said that you are never more like Christ than when you are giving and forgiving. It’s true; Jesus has and continues to forgive much. How do we explain and prove the forgiveness of Christ to our children? Clearly, the best way to teach our children the concept of Christ’s forgiveness is to demonstrate it for them.
Regardless of Jacob’s mistake, he will get a German Shepherd soon. Christ doesn’t just forgive our offenses, but he also gives us his best. In order to truly exemplify Christ, I need to forgive his mistake and give Jacob him the best. I envision great times with Jacob as together we raise and train his German Shepherd puppy.
I hope I can convince him to name the new dog Rett. I’ve always wanted two dogs named Rett & Nelli – short for my two favorite firearm brands (Beretta & Benelli).
Question: How has forgiveness impacted your family? Do you struggle with legalism? How have you demonstrated the love of Christ through forgiveness? You can leave a comment by clicking here.