“One can be addicted to either lawlessness or lawfulness. Theologically there is no difference since both break relationship with God, the giver.” – Gerhard O Forde
I have been reading a lot lately. Currently, I am reading a book entitled Give them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and her daughter, Jessica Thompson. So far it has been remarkable. I have so much highlighted and so much that my heart has been convicted of as a parent.
There are some things in this book that I have felt in my heart for awhile. I want to share one of those today. I encourage you to read this book as well. Read the following passage:
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13
I have to say that something that bothers me about this passage is people tend to take it as a REAL doctor. How we deal with treating our children (or not treating them) if they are or are not sick. That is NOT what this passage means. It is not about whether you vaccinate or not, take your kid to the doctor or not, give them antibiotics or not… is it about the state of our hearts. Our hearts are SICK and no amount of “good deeds” can fix it.
If you read the story of the prodigal son, many focus on the son who ran off, walked away from God (who is portrayed by the patient father) and who eventually comes home. However, there is a lot more to the story than that. The stories main focus should be that of the Father. You see, BOTH sons were wicked and missing the point of the gospel message. The son who ran away was all about lawlessness and doing what HE wanted to do, no rules whatsoever. The other son was missing the point just as much, because he, was addicted TO the law. He was so focused on DOING the right thing, not doing this or that, doing this or that, following this rule and that rule, that he too, missed the point. He was angry when his father welcomed, with open arms, the son who had been lost but had returned.
You see, God loves both the prodigal son AND the pharisee. Each one of those were represented in this passage. BOTH are equally damning. The lawless may never come to Christ and therefore be lost in the sin and given over to their wickedness. However those who think they follow all the rules, are “good people” and are morally right, will not recognize their need for a Savior. That is almost MORE dangerous. The self righteous have also missed the point, for NO one is good, not one (Romans 3:10)
What the Lord was getting at in my first passage was: Being “GOOD” is not what God requires. Yes, if we TRULY love him, we will follow His commandments (John 14:15-16), but not because we think we HAVE to, because those who truly love him has a heart aligned with His heart and truly DESIRE to do his commands. We will never ever follow them perfectly. That was what Jesus did FOR us. We need to remember that. Following the law, and commands, and rules, etc, will NOT save us. Only the grace and mercy and blood of Christ can do that. The pharisees were arrogant, prideful and self righteous. They thought they were better than others because they followed the rules, but you see, they were JUST as lost as those Jesus was sitting and dining with.
From the book, on the pharisees from the matthew passage: “This ignorance only calcified their hearts, denuding love for God and blinding them to the needs of their neighbor. They did not see their need of rescue… Only sinners who know they are sinners will hear the word “mercy” spoken over them”
How often though, do we push this “being good” thing on our children?
-We get embarrassed when they act out in public. Why? Because we are worried how it will make US look as parents, how it makes our child look, and we put good behavior with good parenting. If our child acts well behaved, it MUST mean they are “good kids” and we are “good parents” (again NO one is good. We are both sinners and we all need Jesus to heal us) The book points out that this is a form of idolatry! We are focused on ourselves and how WE look or how our children act. We are putting appearance and behavior above God. We are making HOW they look a god.
-When they do something wrong we FORCE them to say sorry, or quote scripture, or tell them they have to keep trying until they can do it with a “happy heart.” When we do things like this we are unintentionally putting the idea that being good is what makes God love you into their hearts and minds, because truthfully, deep down, I think we believe it. We get in their minds that something is wrong with them that may not be wrong with a sibling who seems more compliant and obeys “better.” As Fitzpatrick says in her book… “it obliterates the gospel message”
-We get angry when our child does not listen. We get angry when they throw a tantrum (which is normal for young children). We get angry, yell, and throw a fit ourselves when they don’t go to bed, don’t eat what we serve them, etc etc etc… why? Because I think we, as parents, forget we are equally as sinful as our children. We screw up just as much. We have a disobedient heart, and we often times disobey Christ, just as our children disobey us.
As parents, we need to start seeing US in our children. What I mean is, when they disobey, act out, hit their sibling, etc, we need to look at them and remember we are JUST. THE. SAME. We disobey and sin daily. We do not listen to what the Lord God tells us. We are just as sinful. However, the Lord gave us grace. We should give them grace. This is not saying we do not discipline. We absolutely do. However, we need to be careful that our focus IN talking to them about what they did wrong and in our discipline is not “God won’t love you unless you are good,” because you see, that is not true. (Romans 5:8) Jesus Christ took our place on that cross BECAUSE he loves us and he knows that on our own we will always fail. We can never be “good enough” without him. He died for us WHILE we were still sinners. It was BECAUSE of his love he died for us, not because we follow all the rules, say things the right way, do the right things, etc etc.
Here is a quote from the book: “The only power strong enough to transform the selfishly rebellious and the selfishly self-righteous heart is grace.” The author goes on to explain that what actually happens those who think law is what gets them favor with God, is it hardens them in pride and despair.
I want to encourage you parents to remember this. We want to train our children up in the way they should go. This is biblical. We need to teach them God’s truth and we need to teach them obedience. We are required as parents to discipline. However, we need to remember to teach them that DOING is not what saves them nor is it what makes God loves them. God will not love us less when we mess up. God will not loves those more and like those better who “do good.” We are all the same. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. That Savior is Jesus. He took our place on that cross. Only HIS blood can save us. Only HIS grace is sufficient for us. We cannot be good on our own, but when we become children of God, we have Him guiding us, and through Him, we can.
I want to end with a section from the book.
“It’s obvious to us how easy it is for parents to be both lazy prodigals and demanding Pharisees – on the same day! We are lazy and apathetic when we’d rather sit by the pool and just give the kids a time-out when they fight, or better yet, just ignore them and hope that they work it out on their own. Who wants to take time to talk about anything? They never listen anyway. When it is OUR day to rest? On the other hand, we are demanding rule keepers when we take God’s law and incessantly whack them over the head with it. “God says you MUST be honest and never cheat. I can’t believe you would sin like that! Don’t you know that cheating is like lying, and liars go to hell?” Or, “You are always so unkind. I think you need to memorize that passage from Ephesians 4 about kindness again. Go do it and them come back and tell me when you’re truly sorry. Now, go apologize to your brother (sister).’ “
” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works,so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9