Bad Kids (and Adults)


My kids, ages ten, eight, five, and one are bad. It’s not a matter of doing bad things. They are inherently bad. I will ask them, "Simeon, are you bad?" "Yes Daddy," he replies, "I am really bad!" "That’s right son." We recently had friends at the house whose kids are the same ages as ours. One of them said, "I’m a good little boy." My five year old said, "No you’re not, you’re a wicked sinner!" I grinned and thought, that’s my son.

Here is the point: our kids need to know that they are not okay. The human race is fundamentally messed up. The fallen nature in which we all live and have our being regularly manifests selfishness, greed, lust, pride, and idolatry. We are, as John Calvin said, idol producing factories, and until we recognize this fact we will never appreciate how deeply we need divine grace. In other words, without a firm doctrine of human depravity, it is easy to walk through life feeling pleased with ourselves, perhaps including Jesus, but maybe not, because who really cares about religion, if we’re honest, except if we’re absolutely desperate for God, which is precisely the point.

We didn’t leave the nice little boy who visited our home with the disappointing news of his badness. My five-year-old gave him the good news: Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave so that we might be covered with goodness. Herein is the message that we big people also need–as dark as sin is, especially in violence and oppression, we have a living hope in Christ that evil will one day be vanquished in the presence of the living God. Come Lord Jesus!   

About the author

Chris Castaldo (PhD, London School of Theology) is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel and coauthor of The Unfinished Reformation.


  1. Hmm…
    I have to admit that I am struggling a bit with this article, Chris. Hopefully, you don’t get me wrong here. Only some thoughts…

    When I think of situations in which Jesus came into contact with people, I remember that he confronted some of the Pharisees and Scribes with their sinfulness. Other people who came to Him were healed, their sins were forgiven, He taught them how to live, and that they should love God and their neighbors as themselves. I also think that Jesus was particularly focused on children:

    ‘Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.’ (Mt 19:13-15)

    ‘But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant,
    and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”’ (Mt 21:15-16)

    Three years ago, I had a miscarriage, and despite the physical pain and grief, I felt immediately afterwards that my son is with Jesus. This is nothing I could explain, but I somehow ‘knew’ about this ‘fact’, and felt even deep peace and joy at that time.

    On the other hand, when I keep my girlhood in mind, I remember that I often heard about my deep sinfulness especially in the Catholic church we had visited. This was the very reason that drove me out of Catholicism, it appeared to be so negative in my eyes (where were the ‘good news’?). My relatives who earnestly believed in Catholic doctrine were no happy persons, and I wondered why…

    Along the way, I was very fond of being with my best friend who was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, not least because in their Christian church I felt ‘accepted’ just the way I was. And I have to say, this is the very way I experienced Jesus Himself later in my life, and I still do. IMO, the Catholic church was and is not very helpful here, au contraire.

    I guess that my behavior as mother and private tutor dealing with children and teenagers ought to be similar to the way I experience Jesus myself. If He had told me right from the beginning, “You’re a sinner, you must repent!” – Maybe, I would have done it, but not from the bottom of my heart. I came to know our Lord quite the other way round; I was overwhelmed by His love for many years until He convicted me of my deep sinfulness.

    In those days of conviction, His Light was shining back through my whole life up to my early childhood, and this period of conviction lasted several months (honestly, it was an awful time!!). In the very beginning I found myself so terrified that I fell on my face in the presence of the Holy Spirit with (physically felt) fear and trembling, and I began to understand what Luther could have meant by saying, “Where can I find a gracious God?” It was as if God would have hated me, and there seemed to be no way out of this stage; God’s Love was almost forgotten.

    Although I confessed and confessed the same sins again and again, my sins seemed to stick like glue…The only thing I had then when all my strength was gone was FAITH!…Nonetheless, after a few months God took every sin away and I felt completely justified and free for the first time in my life, and this has remained as it was then.

    I guess that the Holy Spirit alone is able to show us that we are sinners, and to free us from this state of being through justification, so that we can indeed forget every sin we have ever committed. And moreover, He changes our hearts through sanctification, so that we don’t want to sin anymore.

  2. Thanks, Susanne. I appreciate you writing. While I’m not down with Luther on everything, I think his Theology of the Cross–the basic idea informing my little story–is generally correct: that we only grasp redemption when we have recognized the depth of our sin. This sort of ironic twist appears to be normal in the Christ-centered kingdom. Still, I concede that the idea is vulnerable to misuse. Thanks again!

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