Hello friends! I took a week off from my grace series because, well, I didn’t feel like doing it last week. (Honesty is the best policy, right? : ) I had a rough week with the boys and to me it smacked of hypocrisy to write about trying to be better parent when it seemed like all my expended effort only got me to the “mediocre parent” level. But God challenged my thinking even in that area. The truth is the truth, whether or not I am succeeding or failing in applying it to my daily life. If I failed last week then grace covered that failure and grace is waiting to strengthen my heart as I face challenges in this week.
So, without further self-disclosure – my favorite quotes from “Give Them Grace” up to chapter six.
“Every human heart is always and ever drawn to law. …Not because we ever really obey them but because we think they make life manageable. Rules elevate us to the position of lawgiver; they help us avoid the humiliation of prostrating ourselves before a blood, despicable cross. We love to approve of ourselves. …’Our desire to please God, combined with the human bent to prove our acceptance by comparison with and control others, makes us factories of human legislation.’”
“It is into this context of gospel declarations that training in discipline, or gospel obligation is given: because of his great love, we are to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Paul never ignores our obligatory response [to the gospel.] The Holy Spirit teaches us of the glories of Jesus, and he train us to be holy.”
“Godly parents will provide for [their child] and swaddle him in loving discipline as they help him taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8)
“Our goal is always to get to the point where we are talking with our kids about the truth of the gospel more and more, believing that their training will be better brought about by the conviction of the Holy Spirit instead of the rod.”
“Because both parents and children obstinately refused to pull the cart of God’s glory down the road, the Father broke the stick of punishment on this obedient Son’s back. Rather than trying to entice us by dangling an unattainable carrot of perfect welcome and forgiveness incessantly in front of our faces, God the Father freely feeds the carrot to us, his enemies. He simply moves outside all our categories for reward and punishment, for human motivation, and gives us all the reward and takes upon himself all the punishment. He lavishes grace upon grace on us and bears in his own person all the wrath that we deserve. Then he tell us, in light of that he’s done, ‘Obey.’”
Take away thoughts:
1. I need to recognize my own desire for rules and mandates. Each person gravitates towards a different type of “rule-keeping” which makes him feel secure and accepted (Mat 23:23). On one extreme people can be puritanical in their moralistic criteria, while other people may have standards that aren’t as apparent. Even the person who declares that he tolerates everyone relegates those people whom he deems “intolerant” to a much lower moral category. Given this legalistic bent of the soul, I must stop to evaluate the standard by which I judge myself and others (i.e. my children). I must constantly check my own heart motivations and thought processes to see if I am straying from God’s standard—a tricky task for anyone, but especially a tired parent, right? : )
2. There is great joy in our standing with Christ! Grace drove me to the cross in faith and continues to drive me towards my “obligatory response” to the gospel (Titus 2:11-14). It should be faith, not a desire for favor, that strengthens my heart when I decide on a course of action. Jesus is my faithful example of obedience to the Father—a relationship which needed nothing to make it better (John 6:36, Phil 2:5-8). Since I am an heir with Christ, I can obey with the same joy and faith and in the strength that the Holy Spirit provides. AND if I truly believe all of this, I will encourage my children (once they are saved) to obey in the same way.
3. The found the idea of “swaddling” in loving discipline an appropriate mental picture. I wish I could box it up and take it with me through the day. Discipline can easily become an instrument of shame or dominance, but that’s not how God thinks of my discipline. His chastisement, though painful, is done in love and with the goal of heart change (Heb 12:7-11). I want to model God’s loving discipline towards my children in moments of correction. The “rod” (which I believe is synecdoche for all types of painful consequences/discipline and, depending on your child, may or may not be actual physical consequences) hurts because the consequence of sin is always pain of some kind (Rom 2:9, Prov 5:22, Gal 6:7). But the pain is not the ultimate teacher. The Holy Spirit teaches, that pain is a necessary part of that teaching.
4. The idea of reward and punishment is such a normal part of our thinking (mostly because it works—for awhile). I’m a Speech Therapist, and after working with young children for years, I should know : ). In general, this portion of the book reminded me how easy it is to start following these outcome based educational models. But that’s not how true change works. Heart change is slow and frustratingly inconsistent at times (I need look no farther than how my own, sometimes halting, sometimes flourishing spiritual growth). I think that you could certainly use the reward/punishment model at times (even Jesus mentions the rewards as motivation for good actions [Mat 16:27, Mat 5:12] ) but it must be used with discretion.