This series of blog posts is taken from a chapter I wrote for the book, To You and Your Children: Examining the Biblical Doctrine of Covenant Succession, Canon Press, © 2005.
Owning Our Responsibility
Despite all the comfort friends can give, when our children stumble or fall' we still ask ourselves questions such as "Why? What went wrong? What could I have done differently?" Some parents will be too hard on themselves, while others will find a way to shift the blame and excuse themselves of any responsibility. There is no shortage of well-intentioned fellow Christians who will assist in either errant direction. Some pile guilt on the parents while others exonerate them, in case they need the exemption for themselves later. And then there are those many well-meaning, sympathetic people who feel the pain of their suffering friends and simply want to give them comfort and relief. Nevertheless, if we are to grow in the midst of these trials, an honest assessment of the situation is called for—honest in light of the biblical standard.
So we must examine ourselves, not as an act of morbid introspection, but rather to provide to the greatest extent possible a true assessment of what went wrong. This is part of our own sanctification. God gives children to parents who in turn are given the authority and responsibility for raising those children to the glory of God (Mal. 3). The Bible teaches that children are both a reflection of their parents as well as a reflection on their parents. Wise and godly children are a joy to their parents and reflect honor upon them, which is exactly what children are commanded to do toward their parents. Foolish and ungodly children bring sadness and shame to their parents. This is the nature of the covenantal relationship between parents and their children. The sooner we own this responsibility and accept the covenantal connection, the sooner we can get on with recovering from our failures and repairing the broken relationships.
Keep in mind that the Bible teaches that our children bear the guilt for their own sins. They have their own sinful nature. Moreover, there are many other people and things that influence and tempt them. God makes it clear that they will be held personally accountable for their own sins (Ezek. 18). Nevertheless, parents are still responsible for what their children are taught, who and what influence them, and other forms of temptation they may be exposed to. This is exactly what God charges parents to do (Gen 18:19). Parental sins and the sins of the child are distinct but connected.
Before we can begin to fix what is broken, parents need to acknowledge their responsibility before God. We must stop making excuses for our children and ourselves and stop shifting the blame to others. The buck stops with us parents. There is a relief and even a joy that comes only by agreeing with God that these children are our responsibility. Now we can honestly evaluate, repent, confess, confront, forgive, and redeem.