I tend to cringe when I hear the phrase, “Being an example.” Maybe it’s because I liken the phrase to having to maintain an image, a position at work, or role in a family. Parents, what kind of example are you to your children? Take a minute to think about this. 

Romans 3:10 states, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Later, verse 22 and 23 state, “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

You and your children both sin. There is no difference. Therefore you both have the same need, righteousness of God. At best, parents are an example of ‘need for righteousness’ and at worst ‘examples of sin’. 

Parents may mainly function as examples of morality too. When parents function mainly out of morality then they tend to hide their own personal sin struggles with their children (sometimes with each other too). A child may see their parent(s) as someone they hide from when morality is the main example displayed; and, when a child does wrong, the parents may come off as surprised. The focus is more on the child’s wrongdoing than their (child’s) need for righteousness. 

Parents who function mainly as examples of sin tend to function as examples of morality as well. For example, when a child does something wrong then this parent may be quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to get angry. In other words, the parent sins against his child while disciplining ( i.e. addressing morality). The focus is more on the child’s wrongdoing than your (parent’s) need for righteousness. 

Parents who function mainly as examples of need for righteousness will function as an example of sin and morality to their children too. Need for righteousness implies that you will be an example of sin and morality. For instance, you display repentance of self-righteousness more than self-righteousness; and you display repentance of sin in your life more than displaying sin in your life. Repentance and relationship with God go hand-in-hand. For example, when a child does something wrong, you can empathize, you can listen. You are now building a relationship with your son in the midst of discipline. God does not forsake you in discipline because he sees the righteousness of Christ on you, parent. Therefore you don’t forsake your son in the midst of discipline (i.e. being an example of need for righteousness). Now, the focus is on the child’s wrongdoing and on his need for righteousness. 

Questions to consider:

  1. Which example does my spouse tend to think I function more out of: morality, sin, or need for righteousness?
  2. Which example do my children to tend think I function more out of: morality, sin, or need for righteousness?