‘Repentance’ definitely isn’t a word for preschoolers. But most of these young little folks have ample opportunites to learn about the concept! This photo captures one of those opportunities – a teachable moment when the little guy learns about turning and being forgiven and starting fresh. No, he didn’t committ anything major, but learning to turn from wrongs done, and being forgiven is a crucial part of growing up…no matter the age.
His Dad is listening. He’s getting on his level and his body posture says that he loves him and is so in there with him, BUT what he did wasn’t okay and needs to not happen again. The little guy is listening and deciding the cost. Rest assured, those little wheels in his brain are turning and he’s thinking it all through. Free will is a two-edged sword, for sure. We are free to choose the things that are destructive to ourselves and those around us. Free to choose bondage, free to choose freedom, even when we’re three!
I remember as a young Christian, struggling with people’s view of God…that He’s some judge in the sky who looks down and condemns. But the God of the Bible, bends down. Like a loving Father who wants the best for His children and He loves well. He does not relax His standard, but He calls to repentance, to a life that is free from self-destructive sin that eats us from the inside out.
Even my little guy on the fence post knew in his heart that something had gone awry. And it wasn’t just the getting caught. Repentance isn’t the saying, it’s the doing. It’s the owning up and turning around and making things right if at all possible. Yes, repentance is a big word for little guys. But it’s such a crucial part of the whole concept of forgiveness. Learning, turning, and owning up helps us to move on.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about ‘Cheap Grace’ in “The Cost of Discipleship”. This is what he says: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Repentance isn’t cheap. Neither is Grace. They both cost something. My little guy sure didn’t like sitting on the fence. But after he owned up and got a hug from his Dad, he was probably way happier and free than he had been. He owned up and moved on, and he knew that his Dad knew his secrets and loved him just the same. But his Dad also loved him enough to not let him think that his behavior was okay…he wanted more for him and helped him move on to find it. God bends down like a father who calls His children to a better way. Not an easy way, but a better way which includes, not license, but true freedom.
“Or do you take lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4