Law and Grace in Parenting

My twin daughters are no different than any other children their age (almost 16 months). They love to play, they love to chatter, they love to mimic, they love to eat, and they are sinners by nature. That last one probably came as a surprise to you, but it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very proud father and I love Elizabeth and Anna to death, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are sinners, just like their father.

When they sin against one another, be it Elizabeth stealing something from Anna, or Anna biting Elizabeth for example, I am often at a loss as to what to do. Usually, I consult my wife and she offers some helpful advice, but sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do. By the way, I am assuming that most parents would agree with this. Yes, it is a wonderful, amazing blessing to be a parent, but it’s not always easy, right? There are times where we feel like we are making some headway in the training of our children, and then do it again, whatever “it” might be.

As parents, we want our children to be moral, upright, obedient, and respectful. We want our children to chose right over wrong and good over evil. In order to do this, we need to teach and train them, offer discipline when necessary, offer encouragement, and then wait to reap the harvest of your labors.

If only it was that simple. If only we could teach our children how to live rightly, and then have the assurance that they would walk in that manner. Stephane and I were talking to a dear lady in our church last week and she said, “you teach you kids the way they should go, and yet they still go their own way.” In many cases, that’s often how it works.

Just so you know, I am not saying we need to give up on training, teaching, disciplining, and counseling our children. The Scriptures tell us, “Train up a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) As parents we need to model a godly lifestyle, but we also need to teach and instruct our children in “the way” they should go. But the reality is that we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where the effects of the fall (Genesis 3) stretch everywhere. As humans, we are plagued by sin, and that includes our children. As a result of their sin nature, children will ultimately go their own way, instead of God’s way. There is, however, one exception to this. God must change their hearts.

When Elizabeth and Anna are disobedient, rather than yell and get angry with them, the Lord has been teaching me to pray and ask God to change their hearts. Ultimately, only God can save them (Romans 6:23) and heal their sin problem. He does this through the redeeming work of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18). God has given parents the important responsibility of raising children, but the work of salvation, remains His. The only way our children will be moral, upright, and obedient is if God transforms their hearts, by His grace.

It is necessary to use the “law” in parenting? Absolutely. Children need to know what is right and wrong and that there are consequences for disobedience. However, parents who fail to rely on the grace of God to change their children will only be frustrated and exhausted. It doesn’t matter if you run your household like a naval academy and lay down the law in a big way. You may be able to produce a “compliant” child, but you can’t heal your child of their sin nature. That is entirely the work of God, in Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Merry Christmas.

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