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Legalism, cheap grace & parenting.

As many Christians do, I often feel like I am trying to balance on a seesaw between legalism and cheap grace.  In other words, at times I am tempted to focus solely on the "rules" of Christianity and other times I am tempted to completely forget about "rules" and find myself with a "who cares, He loves me no matter what" kind of attitude.  Focusing on either end brings little glory to God.  Yet, there is a place for both within the gospel of Christ.  

There is another "seesaw" I wrestle with daily - training my children to behave vs demonstrating God's grace with my words and actions.  At times I find myself discouraged because though I have read many books & articles on both sides of the spectrum (either totally focused on behavior or totally focused on grace), it is rare that I stumble upon one with a healthy balance - although, there are a few.  The "grace based" philosophys make me feel like I shouldn't work on my children's behavior and the "behavior based" philosophys make me feel like I'm failing when my children (and I) continually miss the mark.

I recently stumbled across the following verse and found it encouraging in regards to the gospel and in regards to parenting...

Isaiah 28:8-13

“Who is it he is trying to teach?
    To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
    to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that[a];
    a little here, a little there.
11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
    God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,
    “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
    but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there
so that as they go they will fall backward;
they will be injured and snared and captured.
These verses seem to indicate that there is a time for both rules and rest/grace. The problem seems to arise when when one never makes it past the rules.

Most of us know that as Christians, we were given rules to live by - whether the focus is the ten commandments or Mark 12:30 ("Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and with all your strength), there is no way we can obey perfectly.  Yet, we are commanded to try.  Why?  Why are we given rules that we can't live up to?  Because, they show us that we are in need. No matter how hard we try, our best is not enough, yet someone's best is. Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  If we could live perfectly, we wouldn't be in need of a Savior.  But we can't.  And yet, we are loved.  We are forgiven.  We are made new.  Often, new believers (and sometimes old ones) get distracted by the rules. We focus so much on the rights and wrongs that we miss the who - at least for a time.  As we grow in Christ we begin to recognize that it isn't really about the rules - it is about a genuine relationship with Christ.  But, without the rules - how would we know what to strive for, or who to turn to when we recognize our striving will never be enough?

As parents, if we don't give our children rules to live by - if we don't encourage them to obey, to love, to serve, to give, to forgive...we are doing them a great disservice. Just as we will never be able to perfectly obey our Father, they will never be able to perfectly obey us.  Though this may tempt us to pour "grace" on them by continually lowering our standards to something they will be able to achieve, doing so will make their lives harder in so many ways. 

My children are young.  The youngest of them are not yet able to grasp much about the gospel (or the "why" behind the rules) - and yet, the rules are adding up. DON'T TOUCH (the stove, the plug, the buttons on the television), DON'T EAT (the marbles, the legos, the cat hair), DON'T HIT (your brother, your friend, your head against a wall) etc...   With four children five and under, sometimes I feel like teaching the "rules" is a full time job.  It has only been in the past year that I've been able to see it coming together with the gospeul.  When my older kiddos disobey, there are consequences - but along with the consequences comes such a sweet message. A message of hope - to them and to me.  

It looks something like this...

Me: What is the most important rule? 

them: wuv God with all your hawrt, sowl, mind and stwength 
When you disobeyed, did you break that rule? myeah
What is it called when you disobey? sin or sim or thin...depending on who's answering ;)
What does God want us to do when we sin? ask forgiveness
Does he forgive us? myeah
Why? cuz He died on the Cwoss for us
Does He & Mommy & Daddy love you no matter what? myeah (proceeded by tickles and giggles)

or sometimes it looks like this...

When mommy yelled, did she break the most important rule? myeah
What is it called when mommy disobeys? sin
What should mommy do? ask fowgivness 
Will you forgive me? myeah Will God forgive me? myeah
Why? cuz he dyed on the cwoss for you mommy...and cuz I wuv you no matter wut.

God's law is important.  God's love is even more important.  The two work together so beautifully.  If your struggling with perfectionism, whether in your walk with Christ or in your parenting, know that in your weakness, He is strong.  On the other hand, if your struggling with being lacksadaisical in your faith or in your parenting- He's given us the law of love for a reason...obey.  And when you fail, run to Him.  He gave His life for you.  And, He loves you no matter what.


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