How Should Parents Respond to their Children’s Sexual Sin?

This sponsored post was prepared by Russell D. Moore on behalf of the 2017 ERLC National Conference: Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World.

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I recently received an email from a parent who had discovered her teenager in sexual sin, and was wondering how to respond to it as a Christian parent. That’s a good question.

Here’s what I believe the gospel commands from us as parents in addressing our children’s sexual sin:

We should feel burdened

It’s good for parents to feel burdened about their kids’ sin. There are far too many parents, including evangelical parents, who assume sexual sin is just part of growing up, particularly when it comes to boys. That’s not true. This is a sin against God, and a genuinely Christian response to such sin needs to begin with feeling the true weight of this sin.

Having said that, parents should also not be excessively shocked. We shouldn’t communicate to our children, “I can’t believe what you did,’ or even worse, “I can’t believe you did this to us.” Too many parents take their children’s sin personally, because they expect their child to always make the right moral decision in challenging moments. There is no sin except what is common to man, and while there are extreme sins, your child will not invent any sin.

We should reexamine our boundaries

Some parents make the mistake of blaming themselves entirely for this kind of sin. They think, “If we only had put every guardrail in its place, that would never have happened.”  That’s not necessarily true, and parents need grace too. But we should look and see if there are sufficient boundaries to help our kids. Communicate to your child that you will better help them fight this sin in the future. But as you do this, make sure you don’t unintentionally cut your child off from you. Especially for disappointed parents, there can be a temptation to keep our kids at bay after sin. But our children need us closer in the fight against it, not farther away.

We should model the gospel

If your child is repentant of their sexual sin, you should always model the grace you’ve received. For one thing, that means that not every conversation from now on should be somber talking about the Bible and sexual immorality. The relationship and the love is still there, and we should communicate this grace.  Every sin is an opportunity to remind ourselves and each other of the gospel, and this isn’t the last time your child will need to hear this from you.

God takes sin seriously. But God has also nailed our sin to the cross of Christ, and we are free to walk in resurrection life. We can come boldly before the Father because we are hidden in Christ. This doesn’t give us license to continue in sin. It gives us a sense of what a loving Father we must have, who intervened in our own personal self-destruction, to give us the life of his own Son and fill us with His Spirit to ensure that our bodies are a temple of his presence. That’s good news that both you and your children need to hear.

Parenting is hard. But it is even more difficult for Christian parents to raise kids in today’s changing culture. Join the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the 2017 ERLC National Conference: “Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World” on August 24-26, 2017 in Nashville, TN. This event will welcome key speakers including Russell Moore, Jim Daly, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Todd Wagner, and Jen Wilkin. Register by May 31th and receive a FREE Austin Stone Kids Worship Album. Learn more here.