“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.” – Ezra 9: 6-7
Ezra is heartbroken in this passage. His return to Jerusalem, the land of his forefathers, becomes a tragedy instead of a victory. After all the time the people spent rebuilding the city God had delivered them to, they had fallen short in obeying His commands. It is this tension between being God’s people and acting as God’s people that has Ezra tied up in knots. He clearly sees that there are consequences to disobeying God, and is upset that his current generation is moving in that direction. His confession speaks volumes about how we face sin in ourselves and in those around us.
First, Ezra includes himself in the confession even though he had not participated in the actual disobedience in question. He sees himself as part of the problem, because it happened on his watch. Parents have the same burden to carry with their children. When we challenge our children over their behavior, part of our process needs to be a sense of ownership because we are responsible for them. Ezra doesn’t look for ways to excuse the behavior or punish the behavior, he just recognizes it and owns his responsibility in the transgression.
Second, Ezra ties action to consequence. Teaching our children that there are consequences for their actions has become more difficult because our culture is trying to remove fault and place it anywhere else but the individual. It is the parent’s fault, or society’s or environment or TV, but it isn’t the individual’s fault. Ezra blames no one, but those who broke the law. Confession helps our children take responsibility for their actions and helps them face the consequences. And confession is the doorway to repentance. This is where Ezra is heading the people of Israel, but he begins with confession.
It is one thing to help your children deal with the sin in their lives, but it is an entirely different discipline to own the sins of our children. We can blame the world and make excuses about the influences of society, but if the Son of God can take on our sin, it is not too much for us to take on the sins of our children. We can’t pay for their sin, but we can pave the way through it to confession and repentance. If we have a high priest who sympathizes with us, we can sympathize with our children even in their worst moments.
Lord, help me to take the burden of my children’s sin and walk them through confession and repentance. Grow in me the compassion, mercy and humility I need to lead my children through the consequences of disobedience. Make my heart more like Yours every day. Amen.