For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it
– Hebrews chapter 12, verse 11.
As a relatively new parent, I am constantly faced with parental decisions when it comes to raising our daughter. However being a Christian parent sometimes seems harder, as not only do we have to know the basic rules of parenting, we also feel it needs to be done based on our Christian parenting beliefs.
The general impression I feel Christian parents have is that they feel the need to be solely responsible for the way their children turn out, and that everything needs to be done perfectly. A lot of Christian parents feel that they either parent with grace, and that disciplining with consequence goes against what grace is.
What is grace?
Firstly, we are all saved by grace. Grace is a gift of God. It is not about what we do and how much work we have done to deserve it. It is undeserved favour of God. We live by grace and it is by God's grace, we grow and do good works. The grace we receive from God allows us to serve for God.
It is of no value if we misuse grace. If we don't use the grace God has given us to serve and live well for God, we can fully expect His discipline in our lives. Grace isn't a free pass to do what we want and not have to suffer consequences for our actions. It is not a license to sin.
God's grace and consequence
In Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve, was raised by a perfect parent; God. They were instructed not to do one specific thing, to eat from the tree of life. However, they did, and there was a consequence they needed to face. God knew they had eaten from the tree of life, but He did not banish them and sent them away for eternal punishment.
And He also did not just let their sin go and forgave them without consequence. Instead God asks, "Where are you?" Despite knowing they had sinned against Him, He still cared enough to want to find them. Adam and Eve then had to face the consequence of what they did. But after God handed down His consequence, He went on to show grace towards Adam and Eve. He did an act of love towards them, and made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them (Genesis chapter 3, verse 21).
Grace vs. consequences
Grace and consequences are not two separate entities. Grace is a partner with consequences. We are not free to sin, but to live righteously by the grace of God (Romans chapter 6, verses 11-15). As much as God gives us free will and grace, He is also a fair judge and will give us the punishment or discipline required for sin.
There is always consequence for sin,
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh (sin), from the flesh will reap destruction (consequence); whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (grace)".
- Galatians chapter 6, verses 7-8.
Disciplining with grace and consequence
Our disciplining should be based on a relationship first and foremost. God disciplines those He loves (Proverbs chapter 3). Without a relationship, it is impossible to discipline with love and grace. Instead we may rely on inducing fear, which is not the way God deals with us.
Our relationship with our children should mirror how our Father sees us in the light of what Jesus has done. When we discipline with grace and consequence, they run in tandem, building better and stronger relationships between our children and us.
It is never pleasant to have to discipline and train up our children. However there are countless verses in the Bible where God uses pain to build our character and train us up (Hebrews chapter 12 and Proverbs chapter 3). Our children need to learn that bad choices lead to consequences they need to face. Our children need firm discipline and correction when their behaviour dictates. But it should come from a heart of grace and a heartfelt need to want to discipline those we love.
Our children should receive grace-filled consequences from us. As we discipline our children, let us do so with love, grace and the right judgement that allows them to ultimately learn what God's grace is for us.
Clarissa Yates is from Singapore but moved to live in Perth, Western Australia in 2008. Clarissa is a mum to 1, runs a home-based cake business, Lollicakes and is also currently studying towards an Early Childhood Teaching qualification. www.lollicakes.com.au
Clarissa Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/clarissa-yates.html