All of us have seen it. The child throwing a tantrum in the checkout lane, the mom embarrassed and conceding to the child’s ploy. Let’s face it; Parenting is not easy! The recent movement of grace in churches is wonderful, but when it comes to parenting I believe their has been a misunderstanding.
God is both fully just, gracious, and merciful at the same time. How He can keep these characteristics in perfect balance is beyond our understanding. What is clear from scripture is that sin must be punished and sin comes with consequences. Grace is not a relenting of punishment. God had to punish sins and brought that punishment to culmination on His Son Jesus Christ. “He is the propitiation for our sins, not for ours only, but for the whole world.” (I John 2:2) “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on a tree” (I Peter 2:24) Grace was Christ’s substitutionary death for us, His fulfilling of our deserved punishment. Grace is the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ’s finished work and perfect life on our behalf. Grace is the never changing love of God. Grace is God taking us into His family.
For example: King David was called “a man after God’s own heart”. After his awful sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, David eventually repented. Does it indicate that he escaped the punishment or consequences of His choices following the sin? No! His bones ached (Psalm 38). Following the repentance; No! His family was destroyed, and He lost His first born son. Was He forgiven by God? Yes! This is clear (Psalm 103) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed out transgressions from us”
As parents, if we believe that “withholding discipline” from our children is how we show Grace we are greatly mistaken. Using Grace as an excuse for lazy parenting or letting your child get away with a screaming fit is not only anti-biblical but destroys your child’s moral compass. “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” (Prov 13:24, 22:15)
If we look at examples like “teach them diligently to your children” (Deut 6), “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6), and “Raise them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). There is both a training of the heart and a discipline of the body and mind in parenting. We can bring Godly discipline to our children without being legalistic. We are not holding the law over their heads but rather re-enforcing the truth and consequence of sin.
In essence: sin must be punished, but how that punishment is administered is the key. If we administer punishment in anger and spouting scripture than we are trying to conform our children to God’s standard which we can’t follow either. And if perfection becomes the measure of our “spiritual status” than we have all fallen way short. Our children; if professing faith in Christ, are on the same path of growth that we are on only towards the beginning of that process towards Christ-likeness. If we administer punishment as a gentle consequence and reminder that sin breaks God’s standard and their must be punishment for sin we can then connect this mentally with the fact that as Christians Christ bore our punishment.
Where does Grace fit in: Grace is my unchanging unconditional love for my children even in the midst of sin, Grace is my forgiveness offered and not holding that sin against them afterwards. Grace is showing them Mercy when they least expect it. In the midst of punishment Grace is shown in the tenderness of a spanking or the softening of consequence. (Gal 6:1) (Col 3:21) While it may be painful for the child, through discipline, you can display the character of God, the standard of God, and the consequence of sin in a loving way to your child.
“The Lord disciplines those He loves, this discipline is not pleasant at the time, but brings forth the fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:5-11)