The Lord works out our sanctification in many different ways. One of the most unexpected ways is through the discipline and training of our children. When I was a new parent, my assumption was that my children were there for me to sanctify them. I was to train them through my words, actions, and example of how to lead a godly life and follow after Christ. This is true, but it is not the whole picture. Children are there as much for our sanctification as we are for theirs. As we train, discipline, and rebuke our children, God is also training, disciplining, and rebuking us through them. How can we take advantage of this?
First, whenever we see sin in our children we should examine our lives for the same type of sin. If a child is lazy we should look for where we are lazy. One reason we miss this connection is that often the same sin shows up in a different area in our lives than the life of our children. Our child is lazy with their chores. We work hard at our chores, but are lazy with family worship or lazy with changing diapers. Don’t look at the fruit of the sin, such as the trash still sitting on the porch, look at the root of the sin, which in this case is laziness. If we look at the root we will often find that we exhibit the same type of sin. Then as you correct your child, repent of your own sin. It might even be appropriate to tell your child that you struggle with the same sin and encourage them to look to Christ who both forgives and gives power to overcome the sin.
Few things are as irritating as correcting a child over and over for the same sin. Yet, here we find the second way God uses our child’s sin to help us grow in grace. Whenever a child commits the same sin again and again we should remember God’s patience with us and then we reflect His patience as we discipline our children. The Scriptures tell us that God is slow to anger and great in mercy. We all have besetting sins that die slowly in our lives. God over years patiently helps us repent and turn and grow. As we correct our child for the tenth time this week for the same sin, we should give thanks to the Lord for His patience with us. And instead of getting frustrated with them we should be patient with them as our heavenly Father is with us.
Third, it is easy for parents to become overly zealous in their desire to train their children. We begin picking at every little thing the child does wrong. Every fault becomes huge. We snap at all sins no matter the context or the situation. In our zeal to honor the Lord we become like the Pharisees who laid large burdens on the backs of God’s people. The answer is to again look at the Father’s love and correction of us. He is not a heavy taskmaster. He does not bring every sin to light or rebuke us for every wayward thought or deed. If He did we would be crushed underneath the weight of our transgressions. Proverbs tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. If we love our children, then we will cover a multitude (not a few) of their sins. God in His mercy has covered all our sins in Christ and in this life we never receive the full consequences for our sins. God’s love covers our sins. Our love should cover a lot of our children’s sins.
Rev. Peter Jones
Christ Church, Morgantown, West Virginia
He is married to Julie and has ten children: Samuel, William, Benjamin, Calvin, Amelia, Cecily, Elijah, Bronwyn, Jameson, and Theodore.