We are living in a culture that wants to excuse all sin. Knowing that, it shouldn’t surprise us that our culture goes to especially great lengths to excuse children’s sin. For almost every sinful behavior there is a ready-made excuse.
When a child doesn’t show love to others, they are shy. When a child is angry and nasty to others, he’s tired. When a child consistently refuses to listen to his teacher when he is asked to settle down, he’s just got a lot of energy.
When it comes to our children, it’s easy for us as Christian parents to fall into the excuse-making trap.
I remember we had a friend of ours over a while back, a Christian friend, and her child just took a big old bite out of one of the kids. Stepped right up and ate a chunk of stomach. Totally malicious. It wasn’t like, “Oh man sorry I accidently ate a bite of your stomach.” No, this was planned. And the mom sees all this, comes running up, and she feels bad about the whole thing, she becomes apologetic and says it’s because he has a poopy diaper. A poopy diaper? What’s a poopy diaper have to do with taking a bite out of that kid’s stomach.
This same parent, sometimes her children would start bashing each other with a particular toy. Not fun and games, we’re talking full out war, using Barney as a weapon. And the mom would come running up, and you know who would get in trouble? Barney! She’d put Barney on time out. And I always felt bad for Barney, because it’s like what did he do wrong?
Like many others, she seemed to forget that her children were responsible for their actions. Now, obviously it’s important for understand that children are children and that they struggle with sin like us and besides that that they are growing and that we need to be gracious with them as they learn. But understanding all of that and being gracious doesn’t mean that we have to act as if they have no responsibility to obey God’s commands.
That certainly isn’t Paul’s attitude. Although we talked about the importance of you as parents calling your children to obedience, who really is the command verse 20 addressed to? Not parents. Children. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Obviously Paul wanted these children to know that they had a responsibility to act in a way that honored Jesus. He viewed them as capable of having a genuine relationship with Jesus on their own. He viewed them as being able to hear and understand a command. And he viewed them as responsible to obey it.
There’s no way they could simply excuse themselves, saying “Well I’m a kid.” And their parents shouldn’t either.
As I look at my children and as you look at your children, we need to understand that they are human beings who have a relationship with God, apart from us. When they stand before God, we’re not going to be there to make excuses. They are going to be held responsible for their actions. And we are responsible to help them understand that.