So this week and in the next three weeks, we are launching this resource site by expounding on the four suggestions we offer regarding parenting SENT kids (see the suggestions page link). This week, we have focused on the suggestion to parent from grace rather than for goodness.
Here is what I am NOT suggesting with this first suggestion.
First, I am not suggesting that parenting from grace is letting kids do whatever they want. To even think of grace and freedom in this way is a severe misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach us. Paretning from grace does NOT mean that a mom or dad carelessly welcomes a child’s self-indulgence with a “get out of jail free card.” That would be hateful, not loving.
True, grace gives freely even when undeserved, but truth is delivered in love offering instructions toward abundant life. And true, freedom allows for personal choice, but one is completely misguided to think that their freedom has no cost. When the One who knew no sin became sin on our behalf (2nd Corinthians 5:21), the tsunami effect was a gracious context in which otherwise selfish individuals could experience the free and abundant life of loving others because they have been freed from the self-destructive slavery of their selfishness. Parenting from grace helps kids recognize this gracious context where they have freedom in Christ.
Next, I am not suggesting that parenting from grace never involves discipline. To even think of discipline in this way is a severe misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach us. Parenting from grace does NOT mean that selfish choices are not confronted. However, it does mean that the confrontation is intended to foster humble confession, not just behavioral correction. While a consequence is very often appropriate, parenting from grace means the consequence instructs, not just punishes.
Discipline is a part of the journey of being a disciple. The words are in the same family. God disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Why? Because He is making them to become something (Mark 1:17). That something is a sent kid. And learning and living can be transformed when the child who confesses asks for help. The Holy Spirit graciously instructs. Discipline then encourages confession and results in restoration and transformation. That is change from the inside out. Not just behavioral modification.
Finally, I am not suggesting that parenting from grace avoids focusing on character development. To even think of our growing in Christ in this way is a severe misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach us. Parenting from grace does NOT mean that moms and dads avoid discussions of character development in areas like respect, courage, attentiveness, gratefulness, and resourcefulness (or the many others). Parenting from grace DOES mean, however, that the expectation placed upon the kids is not one of self-improvement toward behavioral perfection but rather self-denial toward responding to the Spirit’s promptings.
The fruit of the Spirit is just that – fruit OF the Spirit. Jesus makes us to become, we don’t make ourselves. His fruit blossoms out of us, because we are breath-by-breath surrendering to the Spirit’s work of deconstructing and reconstructing our hearts and minds and lives. There are so many resources out there that highlight a child’s character development, but they never mention our disparaging selfishness that hinders this development from occurring on our own. The parent who wants to grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel is left to interject and interpret and apply the resources accordingly. So be aware of this. And let those resources do what the Law did – make us more aware of what God intended for living as well as more aware of our desperate need to ask Him to help us. That would be parenting from grace.
Three quick warnings if you choose not to parent from grace.
:: WARNING ONE _ kids parented toward goodness (moralism) are likely to go off to college one day too clean to need Jesus, unaware of their ongoing, desperate need for the Gospel.
:: WARNING TWO _ kids parented toward goodness (moralism) are likely to have experiences when they go off to college (and possibly before) after which they are too ashamed to stick with Jesus. Maybe better said, they become too ashamed to think He would stick with them. And why would He? They have been parented to believe that they need to be good. Then they weren’t good. Now what? They have not been parented to realize how accessible as well as necessary the nearness and the forgiveness of God actually is.
WARNING THREE _ kids parented toward goodness (moralism) are likely to hide in their shame or even go further down pathways of self-destruction because they have never become accustomed to confession. Contriteness made David a man after God’s heart (read Acts 13:22 and Psalm 51). David horrifically sinned, but when confronted, he confessed. He was broken. And the Scriptures describe David as a man after God’s heart. Don’t you want this to be a description of your own children? It will not be if being good has been the expectation. It can be if confession and contriteness have been encouraged.
I hope this week’s focus on Suggestion 1 – PARENT FROM GRACE RATHER THAN FOR GOODNESS – has been helpful.
Suggestion 2 _ Parent for kids who will make disciples among the lost rather than become saved and satisfied.
Type at you then.