Yesterday afternoon did not start out well. At all. Within ten minutes of my older three children arriving home from school, all three were in time outs in separate rooms. Attitudes toward me and toward one another were hostile from the time they walked in the door. It was not pretty. I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say that I laid down the law. Literally. I slapped down a notebook in front of my oldest two who can write, and told them each to copy the Fourth Commandment and its meaning three times. Then I went to my own room, honestly quite upset with all of them and wondering if it was too early to start the bedtime process. Fellow parents, ever had days like that?
As I sat in my room yesterday, I realized something. I could let this sour attitude prevail in our house, infecting our attitudes for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and place myself at the mercy of my childrens’ moods, or I could be proactive and go to them first. Now, in all honesty, I really didn’t want to be the one to make the first move. After all, they were the ones who had come home in bad moods, so why should I have to be the peacemaker? Yet as I thought about the alternative, I knew there was only one choice. I had to be the one to initiate the reconciliation process. Yes, I was still mad at my kids, but my love for them won out even in my anger. I didn’t want us to have a crummy remainder of the day, and I wanted to show them a better way to resolve things. I was concerned for their overall good. So with a little prayer for my own sake, I walked into the room of the first child, asked what was bothering him, and had a really good one-on-one chat with him. We ended by praying together. I did the same for the other two kids as well, and the rest of the day actually turned out to be very pleasant.
Now, I’ve often had real-life object lessons demonstrated by my children, and this was no exception. Just as my children came in yesterday determined to be miserable and make life miserable for everyone else, so do we come into this world completely sinful. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away…there is no one who does good, not even one,” Romans 3:10-12 points out. See, we can’t choose God. We don’t have some inherent good in us that commends us to God. We can’t turn from our sins and choose to follow Him. Not at all. We’d never do it. If I had waited for my kids to come out of their rooms on their own yesterday and apologize to everyone, they’d still be in their separate rooms right now. Same with us. If God had waited for us to come to Him, we’d all still be lost. We were “dead” in our transgressions, Ephesians 2:1 tells us. The Greek word there is “corpse.” Powerless. Hopeless. Lifeless. That was us without God’s intervention.
But God didn’t let us stay that way. He made the first move. His love for us trumped any righteous anger. He had every right to leave us to our sins on the path to destruction and hell. But He didn’t. He came to us with more than the Law. He came to us with the Gospel. He sent Jesus to be one of us, to live a perfect life we could never live, and to die for sins we had committed. Then He rose from the dead to show that He has dominion over sin and even death. His victory is ours. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved,” Ephesians 2:4-5 assures us. The action here is all God’s. 100%. And leaving that action up to God is a much bigger comfort than leaving it up to myself. So you see, I don’t have to choose God. He already chose me. For all eternity.