Friday

BEHAVIOR VS. LOVE

BEHAVIOR VS. LOVE

"He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble." Proverbs 3:34

Moral sin horrified Sarah’s parents. They had seen the lives of numerous young people in their church and community severely disrupted by moral indiscretion. When Sarah was a young girl they determined to raise her with such moral conditioning that she would never make a misstep herself and experience such a fallout.

Sarah’s ethical training was exemplary. Her parents modeled modesty and purity. They taught their daughter that her body was the temple of God’s spirit and should be kept pure (1 Cor. 6:18-20). The showed her the passages about God judging and punishing adultery and fornication (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8). They didn’t let her dance or date until she was 16, and then closely monitored the boys who came calling. They built such a wall of ethical conditioning, biblical teaching and parental control around Sarah that there was no way she would fall victim to inappropriate behavior.

But she did anyway.

Explanations for why people act out escape us. Sure, we know that sometimes it is curiosity, peer pressure, pleasure seeking, naivete, spiritual ignorance or even rebellion. But how do you explain Sarah’s case? She was a sweet, innocent girl. She was protected and monitored. She knew all the right answers to questions about behavior and deportment. How could this precious gem act out and swap her purity for a fleeting tryst?

Sarah’s parents were horrified. After drilling her for answers and berating her for misbehavior, they cried at their own failure.

For her part Sarah felt doomed. She wondered herself why she acted out. She loved her parents and respected their lifestyle. She wanted to be a good girl, marry a Christian man, and teach a children’s class at church, just like her mother. She envisioned hosting youth parties at her house and driving kids to area church events. Sarah sighed. It was all over now. She sinned big. She defied her parents’ instructions. Sarah could reach only one conclusion about her role in her moral sin: she was a bad person.

Bible verses she didn’t think of that fateful night now flooded her mind. "The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God." "The body is not meant for sexual immorality." "Flee from sexual immorality." "The sexually immoral will (not) inherit the kingdom of God." "The sexually immoral ... their place will be in the fiery lake ..." That last one filled Sarah with indescribable horror.

Sarah didn’t make the distinction in her mind between committing a sin and being committed to sin. She couldn’t. This significant nuance had never been explained to her. In her youth and immaturity Sarah could only conclude that she was a lost sinner. Since that was her mental image now, that is the role she began to play. Sarah’s uncharacteristic moral lapse became routine. Sarah the good little girl became Sarah the moral wretch.

What a tragic, and unnecessary, set of circumstances. If only her well-intentioned parents had added a few other theological gems in her training program. One, only Jesus lived a sinless life. Two, we are all sinners, all of us, even Sarah’s parents. Three, we all need grace and mercy for salvation. Four, God gives us that mercy through Jesus, even when our lives are steeped in sin and filth (Rom. 5:8). Five, we can never get so low that the grace and mercy of God can not reach us and save us. Never ever.

How sad that some people think they are so bad that God can not save them. Don’t we realize it is because we have acted badly that Jesus died? It is not because of my righteousness that Jesus extends his hand to me; it is because of my sin. That’s how much he loves me and you.

Serena Woods made a profound statement about this in Grace is for Sinners. She writes, "If that group (a family or church) had any kind of working knowledge of who God is or taught less behavior lessons and more love lessons, then the standard wouldn’t be what a person does, the standard would be how a person loves" (p.127). If we only teach behavior but not love and forgiveness, we do not prepare our kids for when they do a very human thing: sin.

Sarah sinned. And because most of her instruction had been about proper conduct, she thought she was incurably stained and soiled when she fell from her lofty position of pure behavior. Since she was ruined now, why try to live better in the future? Her sin would always have a stranglehold on her mental image of herself, impelling her to further acts of immorality.

Sarah’s great hope is that a beloved brother or sister will greet her with a warm embrace, look into her grief-stricken eyes, and say, "Sarah, God loves you. This church loves you. You sinned. So has everyone here. It is for this very reason that Jesus is here for you today. God delights in giving grace to the humble. You have been humbled by your sin. Now, cry out and God will hear you. Remember, ‘The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous’ (Prov. 15:29). You aren’t wicked because you fail; you are only wicked if you reject God and choose to wallow in rebellion. You have a righteous heart. Pray, and God will hear."

I hope all of our kids, in all of our families and in all of our churches, know that God loves them. It is important that we teach our kids to behave well; it is incredibly important that we teach them how much God loves them when they don’t.

Warren Baldwin

53 comments:

Steve said...

Thanks Warren. I belong to a church that preaches the love that Jesus taught, and thank God for it. You are so right, if we just try to be do gooders we will fall flat on our face because, theres nothing good about us, without Jesus. For all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God. God bless

LisaShaw said...

Thank you for a powerful, thought for action message!

God bless!

Sande said...

I felt the expectations Sarah was under to be 'good', the weight to work her way to holiness.

What a load got taken off me when He showed me that He didn't have those same criteria, that He loved me where I was at.

Hopefully Sarah's folks also gave that burden to Him too and found freedom in His Grace and not in the hope that they or their daughter will be good enough.

Nicole said...

Very timely Warren. Thank you.

Jessica said...

Wonderful post Warren! I hope I teach my kids this too. I don't want them to sin, but I want them to know that when they do God's love doesn't change and that He's always there for them. But I also want them to know they need to stop whatever they did. It's such a challenge, grace and justice.

Luke said...

It is so hard to keep these two sides in right perspective, but so important! God has called us to live righteously and obey His commands--and He points out the very big problems with not doing so, and God also extends grace and the power of redemption in every situation--and He begs us to turn to Him at every moment no matter what we just did or are doing.

But, yes: May we all repent because of God's kindness, not flounder in some set of rules. And may our sorrow bring repentance not distance and disqualification of ourselves from God's redemption. And may what we do bring about good because we have repented and accepted the amazing grace of God!

Very good post.

~Luke

Rosslyn Elliott said...

This is a beautiful and very important post. Thanks. More to follow...

Andrea said...

Warren,
This is one of your best posts. I am thankful GOD is full of love, mercy, and grace. He has certainly forgiven me numerous times as I crawled back to HIM from a bad choice or decision.

Blessings and prayers, andrea

Heart2Heart said...

Warren,

This is a great reminder that even as we try and raise moral and ethical kids that we also need to remind them what grace means and show them examples that God does forgive when we fail. I love this post! You are such an inspiration and a shining light to parents everywhere.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Lisa Buffaloe said...

Great post, Warren. I so hope to share not only the standard of Christ but the forgiveness, healing, and mercy of His grace. We serve such a marvelous Savior!

septembermom said...

Our Father's ever open arms welcoming his children back is an image I try to keep with me each day. I think that is why the Prodigal Son story touches me so much. No matter how far you fall, He is there to pick you up and embrace you.

Karin said...

I think there's not a family that has not been touched by stories like Sarah's. Thanks so much for an excellent post and a great reminder that we've all been saved by GRACE!

Serena Woods said...

My favorite part: "Sarah didn’t make the distinction in her mind between committing a sin and being committed to sin."

I love it, Warren. :)

Serena
www.graceisforsinners.com

Warren Baldwin said...

Steve - I'm glad you are part of such a healthy church. I wish everyone could be!

Thank you Lisa!

Sande - You are right, that is a burden, and one we can not carry. The Pharisees couldn't see that; why do we sometimes have the same blindness?

Thank you Nicole!

Jessica - Cheryl and I feel the same way. We don't want the kids do sin, but we know they will. Then, we don't want them to do the "big" sins. If they do, we want them to know the way home is always open!

I used to think good parenting meant teaching our kids to live right. Now I know it means teaching them to rebound.

Thanks for your comment.

Luke - thank you for your positive input on this and for these good links. We haven't visited in awhile; thanks for rekindling the blog-friendship.

Katie said...

I like that very very much. Thank you. Especially since the name is Sarah, it means that much more to me. I also like your comment it is true, raising a child isn't just about teaching them not to sin, it also involves teaching them to rebound. I need to remember this.

christy rose said...

"It is important that we teach our kids to behave well; it is incredibly important that we teach them how much God loves them when they don’t."

Oh WOW! What a way to end this post!

This was one of my favorite posts that I have read here. I have such a desire to be a living example of God's uncondional love for all. It is only His goodness that will bring us to repentance and only His grace that will empower us to change. This was awesome communication of both of these truths.

God bless and have a great weekend,
Christy

Proverbs 27:19 said...

"Sarah didn’t make the distinction in her mind between committing a sin and being committed to sin. She couldn’t. This significant nuance had never been explained to her"

Hey there Brother Warren!

When you get a chance do you mind expounding on the above sentence? I've never heard that and I would like to learn more about it.

Thanks.

Blessings,
Larie

Barbara's blog said...

Maybe her parents kept too close a rein on her and didn't allow her to make decisions when she was young. I speak from experience. My mother decided she would keep me from making the same mistakes she had made and monitored my life until I had no life of my own. When I did something "bad" I was shamed. As hard as I tried I couldn't be "good" all the time. But I knew who I was in my heart and I wasn't as good as they wanted me to be.When I finally got out from under my parents, I didn't have a moral compass to direct me. I had to make a lot of mis-steps before I found God's direction and His grace.

Loren said...

Warren,

The whole time I am reading this post I was thinking about the book I am reading and then you quote Serena! I am not finished with it but WOW WHAT AN AMAZING TESTIMONY!!! I am in AWE of Gods GRACE and we sooo need to stop JUDGING others and just love them. For some, That includes their own children. Not only do we need to give more grace but to remind ourselves ~ we reap what we sow...what are we sowing? Grace? or Judgment? Love?

Bless you Warren...

Warren Baldwin said...

Thank you Rosslyn.

Andrea - thanks! I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, and then last night it just "wrote itself" in an hour and a half.

Kat - You are right. Grace, grace, grace. I needed it as a kid from my parents and as an adult from God. Let's remember that our kids need it, too.

Lisa - Said so well. We couldn't do anything without the Savior.

Septembermom - The Prodigal Son story continues to be one of my favorite of all time! Along with the women of Luke 7, John 4 and John 8 and, of course, good ole Zacchaeus and King David. They all made a mess of things, and God helped clean them up.

Karin - yes, most families have been touched by a story like Sarah's. Of course, you know that Sarah is not her real name, and several details have been omitted and several others imported from other similar stories so that no one could read this story and say, "Oh, I know that kid!" Several faces show themselves in my mind as I read this story, and the main one has been in a serious struggle to overcome many years of acting out. She is still young and still needs prayer!

Thank you all for commenting!

Warren Baldwin said...

Serena - Thank you for visiting and commenting! I am enjoying your book very much and will probably use it a time or two in future posts. I'm honored that you visited this site and shared your thoughts with all of us.

Katie - I used to think that good parenting meant teaching our kids to live well. Now I believe it includes teaching them how to rebound when they don't live so well! They need to know they can come home before they get into trouble and their esteem is destroyed.

Christy Rose - thank you for the kind comments. I believe you are an example of God's goodness.

Larie - I love questions! I want to make your question a blog post, ok?

Barbara - I always learn when you share important things from your past. Thank you for your years of experience and willingness to share it.

Loren - it is neat that you are reading Serena' book, too. If she is receiving the comment updates, she will be pleased to see that.

Thank you all!

Denise Hughes said...

As a few others have mentioned here, I appreciate your poignant distinction "between committing a sin and being committed to sin." Such a difference! And not one I'm likely to forget. What a great teaching moment! Thank you.

Yolanda said...

I could very well be Sarah in your story and I'm so thankful that God reached down from the heavenlies and touched my very soul with GRACE. I pray that we, as the Church, will respond with grace when another needs grace. Not withholding, but simply coming along side and saying...I've been there, God loves you and He will redeem you. Thank you so much for sharing this with us....Lovingly, Yolanda

aims said...

This was a great read, Warren. It does my heart so much good to see people writing stories like this. A lot of parents need to read it. The first thought that came to my mind was about the sinful woman’s encounter with Jesus when she realized she had been set free and made new by His grace, falling at His feet and washing them with her tears. So many people have missed out on that experience because they have not been taught anything except the set of rules and the punishment for breaking them.

Edie said...

This was very powerful Warren. I love what you said about committing sin or being committed to sin. I have never looked at it from that perspective before. What a wonderful nugget of truth. Thanks for this lesson. It's a keeper!

Bernadine said...

Powerful post. I think parents and teenagers would benefit from reading this.

Kathy C. said...

Wow - that was an awesome post Warren. Beautifully written. How many times have we all failed, fallen short, sinned? Each time our Savior faithfully picks us up, washes us clean and sets us straight. Oftentimes it is so difficult to forgive ourselves for our own sin, we forget that if we have confessed and turned, we are free from that sin and the bondage it brings! AMEN!

Debbie said...

Wow; this is powerful teaching Warren. And yet it is so sad. Too many people teach the do's and don'ts of behavior to the young. And of course, they need to learn. But Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love.

I recently read the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. He says that if we realize how much God loves us, our response will be to love in return. The motive for our behavior will be love.

As Christians, we are sinners saved by grace. As long as we live in this flesh, there will be a battle going on. I believe that we need to teach our youth about this and how 1 John 1:9 is their spiritual bar of soap.

Great lessons Warren and you're a great writer. I checked my mail and the book hasn't arrived yet but maybe Monday.

Robin said...

There is so much I could write. I just talked with my son who I have not seen in two weeks and reminded him that God loves him and you are right we need to love well...

Laura said...

this is so good, Warren. I am one of those who let mistakes of the past keep me from returning to my Father's embrace. I knew He forgave me, but wasn't so sure about his other children. I love what Serena said. Yes, more love lessons, that's what we need!

Mary said...

Warren, this is absolutely a wonderful teaching and a powerful tool for parents when raising their children. I was very fortunate in that my parents love is what kept me from disaster. They didn't drill anything into me...they just loved the Lord and they loved me. I made mistakes, yes, and I knew I had failed, but that I was not a failure. I am sending it on to my son and DIL. I can only agree with the wonderful comments already left. God bless, and have a wonderful Sunday, Warren.

Mary

Denise said...

Such a thought provoking post.

Warren Baldwin said...

Denise H. & Edie - I think that is an important decision. It is like the difference in getting stuck in quicksand or just getting some mud on your shoes. Both are bad, but one far more tragic.

Yolanda - Thanks for sharing some of your personal experience.

AIMS - I agree. It is freeing to both the parents and the kids to realize they can't be perfect, and when they aren't, they can be forgiven.

Thanks, Bernadine.

Kathy C - yes, we can be free from that bondage!

RCUBEs said...

Great point bro. Warren. There is no one righteous but only Jesus...God bless.

Debbie said...

This was REALLY REALLY good and obviously touched so many I can see by all the responses. I didn't read through them all as I am limited on time this morning so I hope I am not just repeating what everyone else has said. But I think this is such an important message to get out to young people today. Having raised 4 children, I can tell you those teen-age years were every bit as difficult as you always hear. A couple of my kids sailed through with hardly a mishap, but the other two REALLY struggled, so therefore it was a difficult time for the whole family. But the ONLY thing that got us through, was knowing that God's grace covers everything, and His mercy is new every morning. I watch other families now with rebellious teen-agers struggle, and my heart feels so much for them. This is the message they need to hear. Thanks for sharing it. Blessings to you, Debbie

enchanting cottage said...

WOW! This is powerful, and something that I wish everyone could read. I'm so glad that you are a part of Spiritual Sunday, Thank-you.
God Bless,
Ginger

LuvtheWord said...

I appreciate your insights. Timely preparation for me as I've been hearing "Sarah stories" from too many this week, and reading this post was refreshing feeding for me as I spend time trying to help the "Sarah's" heal.
- Julie@comehaveapeace.blogspot.com

Charlotte said...

Parenting is a hard job. Just when you get it all figured out, the kids are grown and out of the home. On second thought I guess we never get it all figured out. Jesus is the answer. It's our relationship with Him and and sharing His love and our love with others that is important.
Thank you for sharing with us on Spiritual Sundays.
Charlotte

Ms.Daisy said...

Warren,
Such a good lesson here. I knew that my parents loved me and cared for me...I didn't have religious training, as such, but I so wanted their good opinion of me that that's what kept me from too much trouble! I later found out that Jesus had always been in my life and that was confirmed when I was a teen and became involved with a Christen teen group. He knows His own and calls us to Him.

~Jean

Sandi@ My Yellow Door said...

Hi Warren,
Your post was right on! Having ministered in a Young Adult group, my husband and I saw many Sarahs! But we did not judge them; we loved them, and most are now walking in grace and loving the Lord. I thank Him that He had given us the wisdom and the compassion to love these girls back into healthy Christ-filled lives. Thank you for sharing.

Blessings,
Sandi

Saleslady371 said...

This is interesting, Warren. It is so important to teach our kids how much God loves them when they mess up, and to show them the unconditional love of Jesus.

Regina said...

Wonderful message. Thank you for sharing.
I still have a teenager.

Blessings..

MY "SPIRITUAL SUNDAY POST"
Regina

Faithful Bloggers said...

I thought this post was excellent. Parents teach outward behavior, but do not capture their children's hearts through love.

May that not be the case in my own childrens' lives. I want them to know love.

-Kelly

Deborah Ann said...

The love of Jesus is all over this post. Thank you!

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Oh, wow. Just ... wow.

What a great post. This should be required reading for anyone giving a thought to whether they might follow Jesus.

And we ought to tell this to folks all around the globe: That there's a "distinction ... between committing a sin and being committed to sin."

Great line.
Powerful post.

Thank you, friend.

Daveda said...

Warren, what a wonderful post, so full of truth. My husband and I are not believers that behavior modification, or avoidance of everything is what helps out children to grow. It does indeed include boundaries and correction, but teaching them as you said that mistakes are to be learned from and we all make them. Teaching them that God's grace is not just unto salvation but also that it is the power that changes us, helping us to grow and learn, helping us to not be in bondage to sin.

Great Post, Warren!

Stephanie Faris said...

The search for attention, maybe? But where did we get the notion that attention equaled love? That seems to be something we feel deep inside.

The Things We Carried said...

Warren,

What a beautiful message about God's love in the face of such a sad story. I believe religious parents who give their children a harsh dose of God have forgotten their own sin, and do more harm to their child's relationship with God, than they could ever imagine. I believe they are afraid of losing control and use the law of God forgetting the grace we will all need. Forgetting the best news any of us ever heard. All fall short...

The Things We Carried said...

But for the Grace of God where would any of us be?

Hope all is well. I notice you are posting less.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Good post, Warren. Thanks for leading me here from Facebook.

Blessings,

~ Brandilyn

Peter Stone said...

Hey Warren
That's a very important distinction we need to teach our children. We all fail, but that does not mean we are lost. We repent, we are forgiven, and it is gone. As you mentioned, completely different to chosing to reject God and delve into rebellion.

April said...

Thank you for this post and the truth and encouragement found in it... God bless!

Karen said...

This was very good...and sadly, a fairly common misconception...I liked how you worded this...
"we can never get so low that the grace and mercy of God can not reach us and save us. Never ever."