This was part of my input on a discussion group regarding how to raise children by grace.
How do you raise children by grace?
Hello and greetings everybody!
I'm gonna stir the pot a little here. Is that okay? Well, okay or not I've got the ladle in my hand (a big one that oddly resembles a shovel) and I'm putting it in the pot anyway. I think the concept of trying to raise children by grace is bogus.
Don't get me wrong, because I've been enjoying the posts tremendously. I think we just need to rethink the whole concept, because what always ends up happening is that we find we have to give in to a clouding of law and grace in many little pockets of our minds.
We are under grace and not under law. But we find these conflicts every day that we just kinda put in our back pockets and figure that we'll eventually understand how it's not really law that we're facing. But somehow we're still pretty sure that when I give my kid a rule and have to deal with her on the breaking of it that it is STILL law in spite of using a more gracious approach. Huh? Haven't you been confronted by this over and over? What happens is that we begin holding a concept of grace as being lenient ... which is more akin to how the world views it.
You may be wondering, "where in the heck is Jim going with this?", huh? :) Well, I'm sure not going to suggest some performance standards you need to raise your kids by, especially since your kids very, very possibly might appear much, much better than mine.
First off, realize that law is not bad ... God used it with his kids. And He was gracious even during the law years. But the grace which was realized through Jesus Christ was not just an extra amount of graciousness. If the grace we present to our kids comes across to them as a more lenient consequence to breaking commands then we are giving them the wrong idea, aren't we? Consider what the apostle Paul suggested to Timothy when he said,
But we know that the Law is good, IF ONE USES IT LAWFULLY. 1 Timothy 1:8
When we discovered that we were law breakers it was simply that our whole consciousness was in the realm of performance. Your kids will learn this just like you did. You cannot remove this consciousness from them as their entire lives revolve around it. It is how they try to gain acceptance from you and from their teachers and peers. It is how they will try to keep you from knowing what they have done as they sense shame and inadequacy from it no matter how much you try to convince them Jesus took care of it. They will think like this no matter how hard you try to teach them grace. Don't get depressed by this ... it is the backdrop by which they will realize true grace in time.
Here's what we have learned of grace from Jesus: it is NOT a better life, or a more lenient way to be dealt with, but it is a totally NEW life that is not subject to the elementary principles of the old one, nor can it be compared with the old one except by way of contrast.
As I see it, the concept of how to raise our children by grace is what the church has attempted to do to US over the years. What concept of grace have we learned from it? That kind of grace is what we have come to see as legalism. Any believers who taught this stuff to us in the churches probably had good intentions and weren't trying to teach us legalism, but that is how we came to perceive it because we had our own perceptions based on performance and it was not distinguished from the grace they so wanted us to learn.
What am I saying? I agree that you can be free to follow God and set the rules you want or don't want in your family. Just don't be afraid to realize that these rules are laws, and that the law was made for the rebellious. Through interaction with your kids in teaching them how the life of the flesh must be legislated (governed by rules) in order to keep them out of trouble and to allow them to get along with other people you have the incredible privilege not only to speak to them of true life that is not bound by this legislation, but more importantly by their observing in us a life lived that needs no legislation. You'd better believe that they are watching the miraculous in operation right in front of them! You are Jesus to them!! Just as we are Jesus to each other.
I think often of how God described His relation to Israel as to a child that had to be led by the hand out of Egypt (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The law was the nanny until such time the Spirit was put within them. Our relationship with God is a CONTRAST to the led-by-the-hand life, for we are led from within. Our children are going through their own time that is very similar to that phase of being led by the hand, that life that is governed by an outward force upon them. Just as God never intended to lead his children by the hand into His rest, you are able to let them know this is the same reality that will occur in how you deal with them.
Have you ever noticed the tragedy that occurs between parents and children as the law clamps down upon the growing freedom in the child ... and never lets go? It happens so much we have gotten used to it. That's why many children are forced to make a permanent disconnection from their parents, because their parents never let them go. Can you imagine the effect it has on a child as she struggles to break free of the tyranny of her parents' rule when the parents let her know that they have not been raising her to continue under their rule, but that it has been their PURPOSE for her to be able to decide for herself? Some of you have been there, huh? :)
How much more of an effect do you suppose your child will experience each and every time you have the opportunity to remind them of the real life of God. They will insist on breaking God's rules because they assume that that is what you are trying to get them to do for the rest of their lives. How will you handle it? Clamp down harder? Try to be more lenient? Or will you be a minister of life to them and be able to say, Yes, this is how the law cannot make you better or cannot change you in any way, but can only put outward restraints on you ... and this is why Jesus did what He did to make it real within!
Oh, well, I've gone on quite long enough with my thoughts on how to raise children by grace. So, let me have it!! :)