Let Grace Abound
Ahh, grace. What a beautiful gift! Grace sets us free. Grace redeems us, in all our unworthiness. Grace beings reconciliation and eternal life.
If you've ever read or studied the Old Testament, you've seen a bleak picture of hopelessness. Man has fallen into sin and depravity, separating all of humanity from God. To bridge the gap, God offers The Law. He gives man a clear set of rules and regulations by which to live. Breaking The Law meant punishment and exile. Man knew what to do, yet, due to sin nature, they failed to obey. Repeatedly. The Old Testament is full of stories of God reaching out to His people, redeeming them, and then them going on to rebel against God and bring judgment upon themselves. Over and again. Opportunity, redemption, rebellion, exile. It's truly a sad and hopeless cycle, if you think about it. The strict laws and consequences were meant to keep God's people in obedient submission. Yet, thanks to sin, they constantly rebelled and widened the gap between God and man.
Then comes the New Testament! After showing humanity that they could not be holy on their own, God offers the Ultimate Sacrifice to bring reconciliation once and for all. God sends His own son to die for the sins of humanity and, through His death and resurrection, usher in a new way of living in relationship with God! Gone are the days of living under The Law! God replaces rigid guidelines with grace. Amazing grace!
What does this mean? Instead of being subjected to living under The Law of the Old Testament we, as New Testament believers, are offered a gentler alternative. We are offered reconciliation with God, through His gracious gift of Jesus Christ. Rather than struggling to adhere to The Law, we are redeemed by the blood of Christ! Grace has saved us from inevitable death (that is, eternal separation from God). Jesus has paid our debt.
Now, we are still called to obey God's commands. However, we have a constant companion in the Holy Spirit to do so. We are not asked to obey by our own power; for indeed the Old Testament has shown us that man's power is not enough to truly bring reconciliation between God and man. Rather than being bound under The Law we are now set free by grace!
The image we see of God in the Old Testament is one of an unreachable, strict Father. Yet this side of God's character was shown to prove the point that we could not reconcile ourselves. In the New Testament we see God as gracious and patient. He knew that The Law would not redeem us. That is why His perfect plan all along was the sacrifice of His Son. Grace was always God's plan; through Christ that plan was fulfilled once and for all.
What does this mean to us, as parents? I believe it means that we have a beautiful model to follow, and that is one of grace-based parenting. Oftentimes the model that is shown to us by "parenting experts" is reflective of God's Old Testament character. It is a parenting style based on punishment rather than grace. But aren't we dead to The Law, that is the Old Testament way of living? Aren't we ourselves saved by grace? If we have been shown such grace despite all our shortcomings, don't our children deserve to be shown grace as well?
I'm not saying that children should not be disciplined, corrected or guided. The point I'm trying to make is that we should parent on a basis of grace. Not punishment. Grace meets us where we are and helps us to overcome the things we struggle with. Isn't that what we want for our children? That's certainty what I want for mine!
As parents, we are our children's first glimpse of God. Do we want them to believe that He is rigid, unforgiving, and ready to punish us the second we make a mistake? Or do we want them to see that God is slow to anger, full of forgiveness, and abounding in love and grace? If we are to be an example of God for our children then we also should show grace in all situations.
Ironically, the only way we can show this kind of grace to our children is by the grace of God Himself working in our lives! (A little caveat here: we must also remember to show grace to ourselves! No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. What matters is that we learn from those mistakes and move past them.) As we receive, so shall we give. As He fills, we empty. As He continually bestows grace to us, let us likewise bestow grace to our children. Let grace abound, in and through us. Amen.