One of the lessons we have been teaching our children is the short refrain from James 1:19, “be quick to listen, slow to speak.” When I say “teaching,” I mean that a while back, we began to use this phrase as something to say to them on (the many) occasions when they spoke out of turn.
This morning, after another episode of this, my four-year old said, “quick to listen, slow to speak for kids, but for grownups, quick to speak and slow to listen.”
Well, the Holy Spirit cut to my heart and I realized our “teaching” had been primarily through our actions as parents, and our words served to teach another lesson: hypocrisy. I was driven to repent to my son, and I wanted to show that this applied to everyone, grownups included, so I showed him that in the Bible it says,
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
-James 1:19 (NIV)
Yes, “everyone,” was in there, but there was another unexpected cut from the Holy Spirit: “slow to become angry.” This brought more repentance, and more contrition before my son.
Then, noticing the fact that the verse ends mid-sentence, I went on to verse 20:
for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
When we get angry with our kids, whether it’s because they’re bickering or not heeding our instructions, it does not bring forth righteousness. They don’t become more righteous (in heart and in deed) through that kind of discipline. Moreover, we certainly are not setting up an example of a righteous life by disciplining in anger.
As I continue to battle this sin that so easily ensnares, I am learning to also stop committing another: panicking that I have ruined my child. As the gospel has become more alive to me over the last couple of years, I see that my fears tell me a lie about the God I serve. My fears tell me that he will punish me for snapping at one of my kids or correcting another in anger. This is a lie, I will not believe it any longer. “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). If Jesus has paid for all my sins, my position before God is one of beloved daughter. If Jesus has paid for all my sins, my posture before God is that of a soft and contrite heart which will find abundant grace and mercy at the throne of my Father (Heb. 4:16). Do I sin? Yes! But what does the gospel say to us when we sin? Does that gospel say: “If you obey I will bless you and if you disobey I will curse you?” (Deut. 27-30) No! God forbid! Otherwise Jesus died for nothing! No, the gospel says: “If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) Amen and Amen.