I like to joke about the differences between the way my husband and I parent: He is the gospel, and I am the law.
With him off on an unaccompanied Army mission for most of the next year, there is precious little gospel to balance out my law.
Which is compounded by the fact that our boys are having trouble getting things right lately.
I’ve been struggling to respond gracefully when they fail. I tend to get indignant when they don’t adhere to the standards I have established, upset when they continue to break my rules after repeated correction, and tired of doling out what feels like necessary consequences for their inability to follow directions.
Knowing what they should do and then doing it is clearly not as simple as I assumed it would be.
One thing I have learned from the Old Testament is that God knows an awful lot about disobedient and unruly children. And He is a perfect parent. I often refer to His liberal use of harsh punishment to legitimize my discipline techniques, but what if all those times His wrath flared against the Israelites were less about justifying His righteous anger and more about proving this method’s ineffectiveness at producing obedience?
No amount of punishment ever turned the Israelite’s behavior around. Time out, loss of screen time, and even an occasional spanking don’t seem to reap the desired benefits with my children either. Often they just make my children angry and bring about feelings of defeat for all of us. To be fair, consequences are rarely the catalyst for my change either.
My righteous application of the law is failing to produce positive results. It is not bringing us together as a family. In fact, both of my children have recently threatened to run away and then actually walked out the door. More than once. When the youngest was dressed in only his underwear, I was fairly confident he wouldn’t go much further than the front porch. The other was at least fully dressed, minus shoes, and he only went a block.
As I walked down the street to retrieve him from his perch on the curb, I realized it is God’s grace that chases after us when we run away. Grace that brings us back into fellowship with God. Grace that is not ashamed to pull us close when we mess up.
Grace was never meant to negate the law (Matthew 5:17), but without it we would forever remain defeated in the miry pit of our own insufficiencies.
The law can only show us how much we need the gospel. Without it, we might assume we can earn salvation with our good deeds.
The law makes us want to hide in shame, but grace never stops searching for us.
The law condemns, but grace brings hope.
Grace inspires us to do better because it assures us that God’s love is not based on our ability to earn it.
Thank you for teaching us both Your law and the gospel of grace in Your Word. Thank you for giving me hope through the blood of Jesus even when I am surrounded by my own failures. Thank you that your grace chases me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Author: Liz Giertz