This Sunday my 4 year old came back into “big church” from children’s church (which occurs during the sermon for 4yr-1st graders) with a huge smile on his face. He gave me a big hug and was a bit on the cuddly side. This seemed strange for a number of reasons: 1) He wasn’t sick 2.) He wasn’t tired 3.) I wasn’t Mommy. But I took the hug and cuddle combo as we sang the last song in worship. What an ending.
Of course I soon realized one reason he was so happy: he was the “line leader.” Just last week, he wasn’t the line leader and everything was different. I had come to retrieve him to sing Jesus Paid it All, but the poor little guy was crying too much that he couldn’t bring himself to sing one of his favorite (or at least most 4 yr old singable choruses) church songs.
The reason? He wasn’t the line leader and wanted to be with the deepest fibers of his young soul.
So we talked about the episode on the way home as a family. While driving through the potholed and hilly West Virginia road I’ve come to know-but not love-my wife asked him why he was so upset about not being the “line leader.”
I can’t remember his response but for some reason I don’t think it was all that accurate. He’s as competitive as Tim Tebow and loves to lead. We know that much. I’m pretty sure it sounded nothing like this,”I like being in front, because that’s the best and most important place to be. And if you are in front, you’re the winner.” Or in other words, his inner Ricky Bobby came out: “If you ain’t first, your last.” That was the reason.
Amy responded beautifully, much more gospel-centered than I would have. Jesus said the first shall be last and that we need to serve people. That’s probably what I might have said. But Amy sought to expose the issue behind the outward behavior. Jesus’ commands need to be affirmed and applied, and I would have been correct (Jesus is always “right”), but the law has to first drive us to Christ before it can become a guide for life. In other words, we need to first see what Jesus has done for us before we tell others (kids, friends, etc…) before we tell people what Jesus wants them to do.
My wife applied the gospel to the situation. “You wanted to be first because you think you’re only important if you’re first. But Jesus already showed you how important you are by dying for your sins. You don’t need to be the line leader every time. You are important.”
The great irony and sadness is that he wasn’t able to sing the very song that affirmed this truth. Jesus Paid it All. There is nothing left for you do. How important are you? Pretty darn important. You don’t need a place in line, big paycheck, station in life to prove that.
After he seemed to say something like, “OK,” in less than a second he said something to the effect of “What time does the game start today?”
He probably didn’t get it that day. And he probably won’t tomorrow. But if he only hears this day and day out for the next 14 years, then he’ll think, feel, live in a unique gospel-ish sort of way. That’s why its so important for us to hear this truth reinforced in sermons week in and week out. We may be tired, daydream, lose our place, get bored, but if we hear the gospel applied like this every Sunday, for years, we will gradually think, feel, live in gospel-ish sort of way as well.
I need examples for how to apply the gospel to parenting. My wife gave me this one, so I’m passing it on to you. But this is more than just “good” parenting, it is simply living out the gospel and applying it to your sin and situation.
If you are a Christian parent, friend, or simply a Christian, remember to apply what Jesus has done first before you tell yourself or another to simply do. WDJD before WWJD. I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would do.