My wife and I have joked about how our 23 month old is the first of our boys to have a conscience (though we assume all of their baptisms “took”). When he does something wrong and is called out on it, he can very clearly display some sorrow.
This is not to say that there are times when he stubbornly resists us when he is told he is wrong. But it seems to be very binary: he either resists us, or he shows sorrow for doing wrong and gladly receives our forgiveness.
Now, I suppose some young kids might pretend to be sorry in order to “get the forgiveness”, but unless he is a really good actor, this would not be our youngest. He is a sinner to be sure, but it seems to me that this is not an area where that infection manifests itself (yes, perhaps he is playing us for the gullible fools we are: ) )
In any case, he is not going to question the whether the sincerity or depth of his own repentance is sufficient in order for our forgiveness to really “count” and do what it is supposed to do, that is, make everything between us better again.
Now I suppose at some point we might wonder whether he is really sorry, or just sorry he got caught, but I don’t feel the need to think such thoughts at this point.
And I suppose he may at some point start to doubt whether or not we really are forgiving when we start to explain to him (when older) that forgiveness does not always mean the removal of all consequences and further disciplines. But that would be doubting our sincerity, not his own.
Such is the faith of a child, which we are to imitate. What are the real keys here? Well, do God’s pastors give God’s forgiveness themselves? Yes. Do God’s messengers simply forgive 70 x 7, whenever a person may ask for forgiveness from them? Yes. They deliver to us the gifts won by Christ. When it comes to confession and absolution, “we can take one another by our words, not having to probe into the vague area of ‘sincerity,’ because we can take God, who is by nature sincere, by his Word” (a quote from a pastor I know).
For the Bible tells me so. As such, knowledge of eternal life and peace with God are our inheritance.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/coolbite1/3596619861