Is a Christian Parent's Main Job to Discipline the Sins in Their Children?

Christian parents too easily forget whose sins they should be focusing on when they have children, says a Minnesota pastor.

David Mathis, who serves as executive editor for DesiringGod.org, wrote in a recent post that when Christians become parents, they often wrongfully assume that their job is to manage their children's sins, when in fact their job is to first and foremost focus on their own.

Parents sometimes "[assume] that [they] have it mostly together, and that the whole parenting enterprise is about [their] skillfully disciplining the sin nature being expressed in [their] children," Mathis writes.

"I've found it's all too easy as a parent to often forget that I too have a Father — and a sin nature — and that his fathering of me is ultimate, and my fathering is secondary. It can be easy to overlook the fact that my being a parent doesn't mean I've graduated from his school, but that now I am in one of the most intensive courses," Mathis adds.

The executive director, who also serves as pastor at Cities Church in Minnesota and an adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary, adds that while it is important to help our children with their sin, we must not lose sight of working on our own sin, as this will enable us to better serve our children in their long-term spiritual journey.

"Even more important than the work God is doing through us in parenting is the work he is doing in us while parenting," Mathis writes.

The pastor references two important Bible verses that point to sin and parenting, mainly Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, which call on fathers to "not provoke" their children.

Children are especially vulnerable, Mathis writes, and therefore parents must remember that just because they are caregivers does not mean that they are above the capability of sinning, especially against their children.

These two important verses give parents a warning "not to abuse the remarkable stewardship God has given parents for the nurturing of their children," Mathis continues.

"It is especially wicked to sin against our children — because they are our children and the very essence of our relationship with them is for their good and not their harm. Among the sinful attitudes and actions of our lives that we should grieve most are those expressed against our children," the pastor and professor adds.

Along with Mathis, other evangelical leaders, including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, have spoken on the important role of Christian parents in protecting vulnerable children.

Warren wrote in a devotional earlier this week that although several parents disregard the old saying "stay together for the kids," it is important for those in troubled marriages to focus on the well-being of their children first and foremost.

Christian parents need to provide "a place of refuge and security, where they don't have to worry if mom or dad is going to walk out," Warren writes. "Why did God create marriage for the protection of children? Because when children are born, they are completely helpless. God knew that children needed a safe environment and somebody to feed and dress and nurture and protect and train and care for them."

"When you do marriage God's way, it works out better in your life and your kids' lives. Kids grow healthier and stronger when they grow up in a stable family, with a mom and a dad in a stable marriage," Warren adds.