How God has “parented” His people throughout history
The Bible is divided into two sections – Old Testament and New Testament.
One aspect of the Old Testament is that it is a record of how God the Father dealt with His children in the earlier stages of mankind’s spiritual development. There are plentiful examples of His mercy and grace in the Old Testament (the ark God instructed Noah to build, His calling of Abram, His sparing of Lot from the destruction of Sodom, His forgiving of David, etc.). But it is also clear that in that “stage” of His parenting, the “law” played a major role. Practically, He gave lots of instruction about what was right and wrong, and commanded obedience from His children.
God’s focus on rules and obedience at that stage of history wasn’t His “Plan A” that had to get Him by until He could get around to His “Plan B” (Jesus). Nope. His focus on law was intentional. It was designed to show that He is holy and we are sinners, and we need His help.
Paul says exactly this in Romans 7…
I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
In a nutshell, Paul said the law shows us 2 things:
- The holiness of God
- Our own sinfulness
What does that have to do with Christian parenting today?
Many get confused at how rules fit into “Christian” parenting. To some it seems that since we Christians are “under grace” we should not have a bunch of rules for our kids. I agree there should not be a “bunch” of rules, but there clearly should be rules. While our children are young, before they come to faith in Jesus, they not only need boundaries, they also need spiritual tutoring. That is what the rules do.
Let’s consider it through the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9). Jesus describes 4 different kinds of soil (which represented types of “hearts” in people). Three of the soils were not able to receive the seed (the word of God). The parable is not about the power of the word of God but about the condition of people’s hearts.
In Christian parenting the loving rules we set for our kids serve as cultivation of their hearts. Through rules they hear and understand right and wrong from God’s perspective, and they begin to see the sinful condition of their own hearts. It’s at that point their hearts are ready to receive the seed of the gospel. The rules are part of what God uses to prepare them for His grace.
So don’t abandon rules in your desire to “give grace” to your children. Like you and me, they can’t see their need of a Savior if they don’t first see that they are sinners.