One of the ways the Lord has allowed me to better understand grace-based parenting is by looking at the Biblical example of the opposite; namely, selfish, works-based parenting.
In Genesis 25, about 20 years after Isaac marries Rebekah, God answers Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins. Even as womb mates, they are struggling with one another, foreshadowing their relationship, and leading us to the Lord’s words in verse 23, that the twins will yield two divided nations and the older will serve the younger.
We see a partial fulfillment of this struggle at the delivery. The older son, the firstborn, Esau, comes out, covered in red hair, while Jacob, the younger, the second born, follows right after, holding onto Esau’s heel.
These two twin brothers could not be more different.
- Esau was hairy. Jacob was smooth.
- Esau had red hair. Jacob did not.
- Esau was a skillful hunter, while Jacob stayed quietly at home.
- Esau was favored by his father, but Jacob was favored by his mother.
Why did his father favor Esau? The Scriptures tell us. Isaac loved Esau because Esau earned his love. He earned his father’s love by hunting delicious game, affording his father his favorite food.
By requiring his children to merit his approval, Isaac welcomed a works-based gospel into his home, ushering in decades of division. Jacob deceives both his brother and father, Esau plots to murder Jacob, and Isaac’s own wife shows more regard for her youngest son than her husband; all because the should-be spiritual leader of the home exchanged selfless, grace-based parenting for selfish, works-based parenting.
GRACE-BASED GOSPEL PARENTING
If you want to divide your home, then allow favoritism. If you want to preach a works-based gospel to your family, then demonstrate love based on what they do for you.
We are desperate for Gospel Families who replace works-based favoritism with the grace-based Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus is a Gospel of grace, and so Gospel Families will be families of grace. I continue to struggle with this concept and am daily growing in my practice of this type of Gospel parenting.
To show grace to my children doesn’t mean that I don’t have any rules or that I never discipline. It doesn’t mean my children are allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want. It simply means:
- That I try to make sure their obedience is not boiled down to a list of “rights” and “wrongs.”
- That they have the freedom to live without “walking on egg shells.”
- That they know I love them and there is nothing they could ever do that would change that or hinder my love for them in the least.
- That we forgive quickly and freely.
- That I ask for forgiveness too.
- That our prayers are less about behavior and more about the heart.
- That our joy is not dependent upon circumstance.
- That we champion relationship more than rules and discipleship more than politeness.
- That our hopes for them are not based on other people’s expectations of them.
- That the grace we show is undeserved and does not, therefore, have to be earned.
- That we show grace because we know grace. Our grace extended is a reflection of the grace received from Jesus Christ our Savior