What's the difference between human obedience and passive righteousness? And how does this affect the way we train our kids? Righteousness is something we receive by believing that God is good enough to give it to us and telling him that we want it more than we want our self-generated goodness. The diagram below shows the differences between human obedience and passive (what is done for us) righteousness.
This Christian righteousness is called “justification,” which simply means that our record is both “just as if we had never sinned” and also “just as if we had always obeyed.” A justified child or adult has a record of perfect obedience in God’s eyes because the obedience of the perfect Son has been transferred to him by faith. Justified Christians are perfectly forgiven and perfectly righteous.
So, do we want our kids to just be good and obedient?
Authors Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson would say that it's a dangerous thing to confuse law-keeping and obedience with the righteousness that comes only through the gospel. Obedience doesn't make us righteous.
Tell your children every day what God requires from them.
And when they groan under the weight of it, give them this invitation: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the [boy or girl] who takes refuge in him!” (Ps. 34:8). Keep displaying his goodness to them and continue to give them the law and encourage them to ask God for faith to believe that he is as good as he says he is.
If they are truly saved, the law will help them learn what real goodness looks like.
Remember, their obedience does not make them righteous, but if they are righteous, if they’ve tasted how good he is, then they will begin to desire to obey out of a heart of gratitude. If a child is regenerate, he will grow in his desire to know and to demonstrate his love for God.
When they fail to obey...
They can thank God that their relationship with him isn’t predicated upon their obedience but upon Jesus’ obedience. Even their disobedience can be an occasion to remind them that their Savior is praying for them and that their sin won’t ever separate them from him or his love for them. He continues to smile at them because they are his beloved children, with whom he is well pleased. You can continue to assure them that they are finally and fully good because of what he’s done.
Adapted from Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.
Learn more about Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus