The Atonement: God’s Gift to Imperfect Parents 

Posted on · Posted in Authority, Gospel, Parenting

All parents share at least one thing in common: each one of us fails on a regular basis. It’s not pretty but it is true. Parents are imperfect! Parental authority is not based upon human worth but on God’s choice. Parental authority is derived not earned. This means you cannot earn your children’s obedience. This truth is important for them and for you. 

For children, this means that parental perfection is not a requirement for obedience. Because parents are humans, they will not do parenting perfectly or even close to perfect. Children obey imperfect parents because this is part of God’s plan to help them look to God as the only authority that can be absolutely trusted. In Ephesians 6 and Deuteronomy 11 God promises that he will bless children who obey and honor imperfect parents. God’s loving, faithful control is in play even when parents don’t get it right. Children must grasp that parents did nothing to earn the authority that God has given to them.

When you, parent, make a request that is foolish and self-serving or you have been unkind instead of using pleasant words, don’t hesitate to immediately repent and ask forgiveness from God and your children. This places you in a position of humility where your authority is not based upon you being right. This brings the question, do your children still have to obey you even if you have been wrong? The answer is yes, they do. This may appear unfair, but it is not. God will bless your children according to his mercy and grace. You are still required to be faithful in your role as a parent. You see, it is not about fairness, it is about the gospel.

What makes this work is that your sins as a parent are covered by the atonement of Jesus Christ.  When you do not parent well, you don’t have to earn your way back to being a “good” parent. You can’t atone for your failures by being “nice” or generous to your kids. Because of what Christ has done for you, you are able to repent and love your children with a clear heart and conscience.  Christ’s atonement is your security. You can show your children the gospel rather than your attempts to make up for your failings. It is important for you to show your children the beauty of forgiveness. You cannot atone for sins you commit as a parent. But you can show your children the joy of being a forgiven parent. 

Paul reminds us that as parents we are to trust Christ by relying on his grace, provided by his sacrifice and made secure by his love. None of this is dependent on your performance as a parent. Praise God for the gift of Christ’s atonement!

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith,just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:6-7)

With Jesus

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.