Excuse or Forgive? Teaching Our Kids to Cope With Offenses
In Oklahoma, college football is huge – so large it can fill a room for hours. Recently, an Oklahoma quarterback gained national attention for his response to unsportsmanlike conduct by the opposing team. The quarterback responded with inappropriate gestures and was caught on camera, gaining national and local attention. His actions took social media airways by storm. While some say he had the right to respond in the manner he did, others were embarrassed by his behavior and his representation of himself and the university. He made a mistake in his emotional response to the undeserved treatment of him and his team.
We have all been there at some point in our lives – so emotionally charged by a situation that we respond in a way that is harmful to us or anyone involved.
As parents, we have seen our kids fumble in serious ways in response to offenses. The issue that comes to mind, both with the conduct of the football player and our children, is how we react to the offense.
Should we make excuses for our children’s behavior? Should we try to prevent consequences because our child was provoked? Or do we allow natural or imposed consequences to ensue, forgiving both the instigator and our child’s sinful response?
When we excuse the behavior, we attempt to defend bad behavior by placing the blame on someone else. In the case of the quarterback, perhaps the other team didn’t shake his hand, or they took targeted hits at him, or the fans were taunting him. Some might say he had every right to react the way he did; football is a violent game. Does the fact he was wronged excuse his inappropriate gestures?
Ultimately, each of us has to be responsible for how we choose to respond to inappropriate choices by another person. How we respond to offenses as parents will shape our children’s responses in the future.
When we forgive the behavior, we forgive both the instigator and the reactor. We recognize both behaviors and decisions are flawed. We support consequences for poor decisions. Our children learn from their mistakes, and they still know they are loved. We teach our children to cancel the offender’s debt, as Jesus cancels ours.
We teach our children that we are all sinners and all sin has consequences.
We see this exemplified in Genesis 3 when the serpent taunted Eve with the deliciousness of the apple, telling her she would in fact not die, but it would give her wisdom. So, she ate it. When God confronted Adam and Eve, Eve placed the blame on the serpent for her actions and Adam blamed Eve for her influence on him. However, God did not excuse their choices, telling them that since the serpent was taunting and encouraging them, they got a pardon. They partook of the one thing forbidden to them; they disobeyed God’s instructions, eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. While God was angry with them, he made sure they were clothed before telling them the consequences of their sin, which was banishment from the garden. God still loved Adam and Eve, forgiving them, but he allowed them to suffer the consequences of their disobedience. From that point on, we all have been born into to sin.
This leads us to the gospel. Because of Adam and Eve’s initial sin, God had a plan to redeem all of us through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
Praise God for his plan and the forgiveness of our sins for all those who place their faith in Him.
We know we will sin. We know our children will sin. Ultimately, how we handle the sin is imperative in how we will train up our children. A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11) Wisdom teaches us to choose forgiveness, pointing our children to the gospel when they are offended. God’s example in the Garden teaches us to allow the natural and imposed consequences of sinful reactions to ensue. His example also teaches us to cover our children with love, as he clothed his children with animal skins.
Sin is sin, whether we acted on our own or someone provoked us to make a bad decision. We must hold our children accountable even if they were offended.
Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger, do not sin;’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:25-27)
Jesus died on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sins and live in a right relationship with God. Forgiveness is an imperative for us because we were forgiven for our sins. While sinful actions can’t be undone and there may be a plowed path of destruction left behind, new grass will emerge from forgiveness. Making excuses will not lead us or our children to the gospel; confession of sin and forgiveness will.