Approaches to Childrearing: Law vs. Grace

Should I raise my kids under a philosophy of law or grace? Since the Gospel is all about grace, doesn't this suggest that it's a mistake for Christian parents to raise their children according to a lot of rules and regulations? Paul even tells us, in Galatians 3:24, that the law was nothing but a "tutor to bring us to Christ." Should we teach our kids the difference between right and wrong or just help them to find Jesus?

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As we see it, the answer to your question is obvious. Of course we have to teach our kids the difference between right and wrong. Once they’re morally and intellectually mature they will be able to conceptualize the spiritual distinction between grace and law. At that point they’ll be in a position to understand why the one is so vastly superior to the other. Until then, they need parental guidance and discipline, not only as part of their moral upbringing, but as a way of preserving their health and safety. They’re not yet old enough and wise enough to know “the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) in any aspect of life.

That’s not to mention that when Paul characterizes the law as “a tutor to bring us to Christ,” he’s not merely looking at the question in terms of the broad sweep of “salvation history.” There is also an important sense in which he is referring to the personal experience of every individual believer. He’s describing the process by which each and every one of us comes to Jesus. What’s more, he’s telling us that the law is an indispensable part of that process. In effect, he’s saying that the function of the law is not to save us, but rather to show us that we need saving. He’s agreeing with the old evangelistic maxim that “you can’t hear the good news until you’ve heard the bad news.” In other words, Paul is not suggesting that we get rid of the law (see Matthew 5:17). Instead, he wants us to let it fulfill the purpose for which it was intended.

If you have further questions, feel free to call one of our pastoral counselors.

 

Related Video
Giving Children Grace When They Stumble: Gary Thomas offers advice on how parents can respond when children make mistakes.

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works

The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love

Grace-Based Parenting

Trophy Child: Saving Parents from Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater Than Themselves 

Moving Beyond Performance-Based Parenting

Parenting Concepts That Work

Referrals
John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

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