There’s a good book by this title written by Tim Kimmel. And I’m currently re-reading that book.
But I want to talk about grace-based parenting from what I learned from Martin Luther.
Martin Luther got a lot of things right and figured out so much that we, even true believers, have forgotten or never gotten. I think this is because Martin Luther struggled with life’s most foundational question. His struggles about salvation and being accepted by God worked incredibly deep insights in his thinking.
And one thing I’m learning from him is this: that salvation IS The Thing in ALL of life, every single day. It’s not a first step, it’s not a topic that I settle then move on to deeper stuff. Salvation IS the stuff.
I highly recommend reading his work Concerning Christian Liberty. Just google it, and you’ll find it online somewhere. Especially parts 2 and 3. He understands how faith is not just the foundation of life, it is the entire structure. Anything else that really matters is a product of right faith.
I recently was in a conversation about children’s obedience, and I just couldn’t figure out what was bothering me, trying to apply to obedience what I knew from reading Martin Luther, compared to what we most usually hear as christian parents.
So I sat down and went through the first half of Concerning Christian Liberty, part 3, then I wrote out my conclusions (or philosophy) about obedience in the form of a letter to my kids. Here’s the letter. And I think that in the process of doing this excercise, God used Martin Luther to help me understand the grace basis in parenting. See if you notice it.
A letter to my child, to be discussed throughout your young life, on why you should obey me:
You should obey Mommy and Daddy because God commands and desires it of you. Christ has alreay completed your obedience–He lived a perfect life that is now accounted to you, and He died to be punished for the sins (of disobedience, etc) that you do.
This is vital for you to believe–that in Christ, God is perfectly satisfied with you. You are free now to serve God with joy and love, not out of any fear.
Being in Christ means that you are now a servant, like Christ was for you. And this is the main way God has asked you to serve right now–by obeying your parents.
And this obedience takes work, but God has put His Spirit in you to help you and give you power. You won’t ever be perfect, but God will forgive you when you fail, and the more you understand your faith in Christ, the more God’s power will be in you to obey.
I think this is the key thought of grace: “In Christ, God is perfectly satisfied with you.” It’s hard to start with an attitude of acceptace with our kids, you know? There’s just so much that needs changing!
And sadly, so many of us as Christians have the secret drive of wanting to please God, the idea that sanctification is something I do. First, Christ fulfilled the law for my life already; then, my righteousness is not a result of me, only of Christ anyway; third, my good deeds aren’t getting me any further up on God’s “In Good” list. There’s only one name on that list: Jesus Christ; and we all come in under Him.
What I’ve come to understand is that:
- Yes, I teach obedience, and I discpline, train, and disciple them.
- About half of what irritates me will be grown out of; I don’t have to live in a pressure cooker that I need to perfect my kid. It’s doesn’t mean I let it all go; it means it’s not all sin-level issues.
- God changes us starting with acceptance. He doesn’t change us through fear, manipulation, achievement, etc. This is the heart of grace. He starts with acceptance, and that’s the open door to transformation. When I started parenting, I came at my kids from the wrong end–“I’m here to fix you.” It wasn’t grace. Now I can relate to them starting with acceptance.
- I’m not a big one on giving advice, but for some of you out there who need a balm . . . Don’t be a lazy parent–it’s a huge temptation. But don’t be thinking that you, as parent, are the end-all of your child’s destiny. That’s way too much pressure for a parent to bear, and, especially as christian parents, we are very susceptible to this internal guilt and weight. In Christ, God accepts you as you are; He will use even your sins, failures, and weaknesses to work all together for your good. And as you understand and believe more and more deeply the depth of His acceptance of you through the law-fulfilling life (lived on your behalf) and the atoning death of Christ, the more you will be naturally transformed. So don’t focus on your parenting. Focus on right faith in God.
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