Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"The Truth Behind Grace" from Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel

Dear friends,

Welcome to my reflections on chapter 2 of Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.  You might also enjoy reading my introduction, chapter 1, Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short, or chapter 3, “A Secure Love”.

When writing a persuasive essay or preparing for a debate, students are taught to examine possible objections to their premise.  The purpose is so that they can effectively address them and convince their audiences that their viewpoint is still valid despite the contrary concerns.  That is what this chapter does.

I know the objections that come up when Christians start talking about “living by grace” and protesting legalism.  Beyond the realm of parenting, this theology of grace has been a paramount one for me in recent years. It is even what led our family to leave a church where it was a personal struggle for me to consistently experience grace where there seemed to be an over-emphasis on mortifying indwelling sin.  Our explorations into the nature of grace have also led us to a lot of soul searching about how we raise and relate to our children.  I wish I could say this has been an easy process, but unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding about grace.

Here is the main objection to “living by grace”:  If we focus on God’s grace too much, we will use it as an excuse to not pursue holy living.  We will just assume that since God forgives us, we can do whatever we want and then tell him we’re sorry.  Or, applying this to parenting, we can let our children do whatever they want and call it “grace” and not hold them to godly standards.  That’s why we hear complaints about “greasy grace” or “cheap grace” that doesn’t require repentance or life change.

So how does Dr. Kimmel answer this objection?  He acknowledges that it can be valid and then elaborates on that by taking us to the life of Jesus.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   He reminds us that grace and truth are inseparable, “two parts that make up a single whole.”  We cannot ignore the moral claims of the Bible, the truth that confronts our hearts and draws us to repentance.  He agrees that using grace as an excuse to sin is a serious problem, and describes a family where he has seen that sad dynamic. As he says, “A family without clearly defined rules and standards can never be a grace-based family.  It’s too busy being a nightmare to live in.”

Real grace actually calls us to a higher standard because our hearts are changed. We have a new motivation: not performance to gain acceptance, but gratitude and love which flow from acceptance that we already have in Christ.  We want to be like him because we adore who he is.   We willingly embrace grace as our tutor.  “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

After addressing how true grace changes lives, Dr. Kimmel reinforces his chapter 1 caution about parenting without grace.  He warns against using Scripture to pistol-whip kids into submission, citing “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) and “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).

My daughter with her little guy
We need warm and strong relationships with our children that will empower them to live for Jesus, not ego-fueled power struggles that break down their spirits and beat down motivation.  We need to follow the example of God, who is “a graceful Father who cherishes his children and treats them in a way that draws them to His heart and the safety and security of His everlasting arms.” 

As I think about what Dr. Kimmel has said, I ponder about how often parents misrepresent the character of God.   If a child is treated harshly by his parents, it’s a stumbling block toward how he views God.  He might still make the mental assertion that “God is good, God is kind, God is patient, God is loving, God is forgiving,” because that has been what he's been told in words but if he sees the exact opposite in how his parents relate to him, his heart will be screaming a different message.  I personally don’t want my mothering to cause this kind of cognitive dissonance in my children.  I know I’ll never be a perfect representation, and they don’t expect that. 

Grandma loves you!
When they were babies, my little chant to them was, “Mommy loves you and Daddy loves you, but Jesus loves you so much more!”  Or, “I haven’t been very patient and kind with you today, but God is always patient and kind.”  On the other hand, I don’t want to represent God as a pushover either.  My children need to learn to be patient and kind, too, and I am responsible for teaching them. As Dr. Kimmel notes, "Home has got to be a place where our children are safe from the traps of the world and assured that they have parents who won't surrender God's standards -- even to them." So I can also tell them: 
  • “No, I’m not going to back off!  I want you to succeed in life, and this kind of behavior is only going to bring you down. I love you so much that I can’t let you get away with this.”
  • “Let's take a look at those song lyrics.  Does this kind of foul language really help you appreciate and love God's holiness more -- or not?"  
  • "No matter what he says or does or how you feel about it, you may not hit your brother.  Be kind!”
  • “Hand me the iPod and get back to your math!  I don’t want you to get into a frantic crunch when it’s time to turn in your assignment.”
  • “You may not yell at me to help you with your math problem when I'm working with your sister. You can be patient and wait your turn.  See if you can do other problems on this page until then.”
  • “You do not need to let your sister’s words control your attitude.  The good news is that you have a choice and you can change.  You can choose to be calm instead of angry.” 
Grace or truth? Yes.  Both.  That is true grace.  That is gracious truth.  And that makes for a happier home.

My daughter's sweet rendition of a happy home!
I love the sunshine and rainbow!

I leave you with some words from Abbé de Tourville about education, which applies to parenting as well.

Set aside everything which might make you at all touchy or timid and let all your qualities of goodwill, frankness and simplicity shine forth in your dealings with every one you meet.  Never mind how different their characters and way of life may be, for our Lord desires us to behave thus even to the unrighteous which would otherwise be difficult... 

Encourage with discretion all that is good in your pupils; let them feel your support without being embarrassed or hampered by it.  Education, as the very word shows, means helping someone to develop himself, to draw out all that is good in him.  It is the greatest of all benefits.  That too is the meaning of the expression to direct¸ direction.  Unless interpreted in this sense, I like the word formation less; it seems to me to carry the suggestion of a preconceived form into which one is to force people whether they like it or not.  But people do not lend themselves to this kind of treatment and so the form remains empty.

Other posts in this series:

Chapter 1: Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short
Chapter 3: “A Secure Love”
Chapter 4: "A Significant Purpose" 

You may also wish to read these posts:
Virginia Knowles

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to so eloquently encapsulate the salient points of this book and to add your personal insights drawn from experience. I've been "lurking" on this blog for a few months and I have been deeply edified by your essays. As a new homeschooling mom, I appreciate the encouragement you give to others.

    May God bless you,



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