How Should You Respond to Children Who Don’t Obey God?

If you have one or more children who aren’t following the Lord, or if you know of someone who does, you know what kind of heartache it can cause. And since you’re reading this post, you probably also understand the gravity of the issue; the repercussions of a child’s choices can have an eternal impact. So if you’re in that situation, what should you do? Allow me to offer three tips.

1. Look in the Mirror First

One of the challenging areas in parenting is to make sure you are looking in the mirror and being honest with the sins and imperfect areas in your life before you start pointing out the sinful and imperfect areas of your child. Jesus made this process very clear in Matthew 7:1-5:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”

– or in this case, your son or daughter’s eye.

Doing what Jesus is commanding us to do takes a humble heart and a willingness to change and grow. It’s always very easy to point out someone else’s sinful and selfish choices. But parents have to be honest with their own lives and be willing to admit when they are wrong and have made sinful choices. Parents need to allow the truth of God’s word to shine some light on their sins and failures, and then try to communicate the truth in love to help their child see the magnitude of his/her own sin.

While we all want our children to grow and change to think and act more like Jesus so they can please God, we need to make sure we are growing in our relationship with our Lord and Savior “who loved us and gave Himself for us.”

2. Remember That Children Have to Make Choices

Parents are responsible for their child’s direction, but not for their child’s decisions.

The fact that children are sinning does not mean that the parents have sinned or have completely failed in their parenting efforts. Keep this in mind: Parents are responsible for their child’s direction, but not for their child’s decisions.

To use a theological term, a child has individual soul liberty – i.e. he has the option of accepting God’s Word and choosing to obey God, or rejecting God’s Word and disobeying God–making rebellious decisions and/or living a rebellious lifestyle. Paul’s words to us as Christians in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 apply to our children as well:

“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Each child will stand before Jesus, the Judge, and give an account for his/her life as a Christian. Sadly, but truthfully, if that child does not know Christ as his/her Savior, that child will stand before God at the Great White Throne and give an account for rejecting the Gospel (Revelation 20:11-15). It is after this event that God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and then we spend eternity with God and His people forever.

3. Love Them the Way God Loves You

Paul summarizes this in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In spite of our sin, there was nothing we could do or not do, that would prevent God from showing His love for us.

A friend of mine was attending the annual NANC Conference this year in California, and he sent me a text quoting Dr. Charles Ware who said, “Even though God the Father is a perfect parent, He still has imperfect, knot-headed kids.” While that is funny, and I laughed because I’m one of those kids, it’s still true, and Dr. Ware is right. Our love for our children should be described by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13, “love never fails.” No matter what our child does, or will not do, we should love him unconditionally, sacrificially, and faithfully till Jesus comes or takes us home to heaven.