Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:10-13 ESV)
As a follower of Christ, we are prone to be labeled as hypocrites. And I would say that is a very true statement because everyone is a hypocrite. There is not one person on this earth that is good. We are all imperfect sinners, and therefore that hypocritical argument dies. There is nothing more to discuss.
But what about correcting someone who continues to live in sin? Are we even qualified to make that judgment and encourage that person to repent? The answer is yes, but there are some biblical guidelines to follow if we want to do it the right way. I will just highlight two of them.
First, Christians are to only correct fellow Christians. The reason is because non-believers are already under God’s judgment and he will deal with them accordingly. The apostle Paul wrote: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you’” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). So we don’t have to be their disciplinarians if they have no interest in God at all. We are just to be messengers of the gospel if nothing more.
Second, we must deal with our own sin and get right with God. Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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” (Matthew 7:3-5). Only then can we speak truthfully into someone else’s life if they are headed into more trouble.
As parents, this is a challenge when dealing with our children because they have seen how flawed we really are. Some of them would even throw our shortcomings back in our faces by saying, “Oh yeah? Well, what about you and what you have done?” This deflection tactic is very common because it is an attempt to derail us from the core issue and to get us off their backs when they know they did something wrong.
One word that I have learned to use in these situations is nevertheless. “Nevertheless, your behavior is still wrong and I will not tolerate it.” Step-parents have additional challenges because some of their kids would say, “You’re not my mom, or you’re not my real dad.” In my experience, I responded to those remarks with, “You are absolutely right, but I am your parent, and I still need you to follow these rules. Otherwise, you will have to endure the consequences.”
Just because you have made some of the same mistakes in your youth doesn’t mean your children should be allowed to do them too. If you robbed a bank and went to jail, you wouldn’t want them to do same thing. Other people’s mistakes are meant to be learned from, not experienced. That is why Paul wrote that “things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as [others] did…they were written down for our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11). Hence, the old adage that history needs to be learned and understood so we don’t repeat the bad stuff.
With regard to to our past, let me just say that it is none of their business unless we choose to disclose those details to them (I recommend that we don’t). Only our closest and most trusted friends who support us and hold all things in confidence are to be our sounding board. Some information about you isn’t meant to be shared with them because they are not your equals and they do not have the maturity handle it. Additionally, parenting is hard work anyway, and there is no playbook or formula that fixes every situation. We just have to tough it out with patience and love, and apologize to our kids if we are truly in the wrong.
In short, we have to be right with God first, and then equip ourselves with his word and other supportive resources so we can raise our children with our best efforts. We aren’t called to be perfect parents, but we must parent responsibly. When we realize they are God’s children first before they are ours, we can release them under his care knowing that he will fill in the gaps for us. And he will see to it that when they are all grown up, that he gives them every opportunity to learn from him.