How Do You Define Your Family Culture?

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If you had to summarize your family culture in a two or three-word slogan, what would it be?

Here is the slogan I chose for our family: Jesus-loving sinners.

Our family regularly shares meals together, we regularly spend time together (especially since we’ve chosen to homeschool our kids, even before the pandemic). We are constantly “in progress” on a home project or three. We read the Bible together at the dinner table. We have a lot of extended family in the area, so we spend a great deal of time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Don’t we sound put-together? You may think, as a result of this description of our family, that we don’t sin that much, or that we are super holy, but the contrary is actually true. In fact, spending a lot of time together in close relationship does not prevent sinfulness, it reveals sinfulness. This has never been truer than during quarantine.

It did not take long for the honeymoon phase of the quarantine to wear off in the Turner household. I quickly went from, “This will be so great! Family Time!” to “Okay, we all need mandatory breaks from each other.” But, the parent breaks didn’t change the problem, because the problem is not too much time with my family. The problem is my sin; in this instance, the pride in my heart.

In quarantine, my heart revealed a reality that my daily departure to the office kept well hidden. I started to see an ugliness coming out of me aimed towards my kids. I was more easily angered by my children. I was quick to reach out to the things of this world to cope with the stress. Sadly, my pride was creating a family culture that was unsafe for sinners. Rather than the Spirit producing a gracious place for those who are going to mess up, my pride was producing an abode of little souls who were scared to mess up.

This came to a pinnacle the day after I made one of those “fear-and-control statements” to my sweet daughter. I told her, “The next time you do ___________ you are going to get a consequence.” I can be so blinded by my own sin that I think “threatening” my kids is good disciplining. Well, guess what happened? The next day my daughter did “_____________.” And right after she did it, she caught herself and in fear and trembling of how I might respond said, “Sorry, dad!” My heart broke. My heart breaks now as I think about the fear in her eyes. My threat worked. I got what I wanted: My sweet child afraid to mess up in front of dad.

That night God, my father, undeservedly reminded me that he has never expected sinlessness from me. He reminded me that my children’s behavior reveals their hearts and their heart is what I am called to shepherd. The next day at the dinner table I took time to explain to my kids, and especially my daughter, how daddy had been sinning in the way that he was “disciplining” them lately. I told them it was wrong, and asked them to forgive me. They did. (Kids are so forgiving of sinners).

How I wish I would have responded to her in that moment was to say without fear, control, or frustration and in gentleness and love, “Sweetie, what did daddy tell you to do? And what did you do? Now what is going to happen? You are going to receive a consequence. I love you, girl. Let’s pray to God thanking him for Jesus who died for sinners like us.” Loving my daughter would have been to confront her sin, lead her to express what she did, how it was wrong, apply a fitting consequence and then affirm my love for her.

You see, I didn’t pick “Jesus-loving sinners” because my kids sin so much when we are all together, but because I sin so much. My sinfulness is why I, as the head of this family, am so thankful for Jesus. Not a day goes by in the Turner household when I am not in need of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on my behalf. Jesus is my only hope. God used my own sin, to remind me of, and renew me in, who I really am.

My prayer is that my family will see and believe that God has not called us to a life of sinlessness (impossible), but a life of faith, believing in the sinless one He sent to take the punishment we deserve. The temptation to avoid or excuse away both my and my kids’ sin is real, as is the temptation to beat ourselves up for our sin, hoping we can pay for it ourselves. Thankfully, Jesus paid for all of our sins so dad, mom, and the kids do not have to excuse or be shocked by sin. Nor do we have to try to atone for it through our own effort. As we read in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Praise God!

Remind each other of these things. We are prone to forget them, which is why our family has that mantra: Jesus-loving sinners.

I love these three words because they define who we are, but they also define who Christ is as well. We are sinners who love Jesus, but Jesus is the savior who loves sinners. What three words define your family culture?

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