Our little Keri was about 7 years old.  As a homeschooling Mom I was constantly feeling my inability to give our three little ladies all the spiritual, social, and educational training that I so longed to provide, and that I knew the Lord required of me.  On this particular morning I was focused on my desire to raise hardworking future homemakers that would tackle their chores with energy and enthusiasm.  I can’t remember what new method I was employing.  Maybe it was a colorful wall chart with fun stickers, or cartooned chore cards in a decorated file box, or motivating prizes given out after beating the chime of a timer,  or a simple checklist … but whatever my method on this particular day, it wasn’t impressing Keri.  Chore #1 – Clean your room — simple enough. But this in itself was a monumental task.  The room was simply a disaster area, clothes and toys strewn everywhere.   I remember going to the door of her room repeatedly only to find her sitting in the middle of a pile of stuff with the condition of her room completely unchanged.  I scolded, I coaxed, I pleaded.  It seemed to go on for hours!  I stood at her door and wondered, had I asked too much of a 7 year old? Should I show her grace and help her clean it? Or would I be more Christ-like if I stepped in and cleaned it for her? I had a heart that wanted to give her grace – I didn’t want to stubbornly hold her to the letter of the law. But I had set down the rules, what would it say about my word if I went back on it now?  I knew that if I reversed my command she would remember it and it would make my future commands negotiable. Was that best for her? Was that my desired end? Would that glorify God?  Finally, with a reminder that to delay was to disobey, I chided her for being a disobedient little girl and gave her that punishment that only a loving parent should administer. Her tears flowed as she looked up at me and with desperation sobbed, “ I CAN’T be good Mommy.  I just CAN’T!”  My heart swelled as I saw the discouragement on my little girl’s face. I knew that she felt the same about her task of cleaning that room as I felt about my task of parenting her.  She felt her inability! What a wonderful place to find her.  This was one of those moments of opportunity, one of those teachable moments that we as Mom’s must grasp.  I looked down at her and smiled.  “You’re right Keri, you can’t be good!  Ya know, there is a story in the Bible about how Christ taught that very truth to a rich young ruler? He came to Christ and asked what he needed to do to be saved.  Christ told him that he needed to be good.  Then Christ asked him to do harder and harder things to show him that he couldn’t be good and He told him that there is only one man that is truly good and that is Christ Himself.  But I have good news!  Christ came because we can’t be good!  He came to this world and was good His whole life in everything that He did and when we look away from our own goodness and trust in His goodness then God counts that goodness as ours!  He did that for you! He did that in your place!  And when you put your trust in His goodness then He gives you power to obey!”   She smiled.  “You mean Christ was good FOR me?”   “ Yes Keri, Christ was good FOR you! That’s the gospel! And in Him you can do all things because He’ll give you the strength.  Now trust in His goodness and go clean that room!”

It was amazing to me to watch.  The burden of her inability that weighed heavily upon her shoulders was relieved by the joy of the knowlege of Christ’s fulfillment of the law in her place! She jumped down off the bed and started cleaning with boundless energy and enthusiasm, as if cleaning her room was actually fun!  But what if I had bent the law to try to show her grace? I would have removed her knowledge of sin and a rich opportunity to point her to the grace of God in light of it! And I would have missed the beautiful picture it was for me of the only source of joy and energy in my seemingly endless task of parenting.  It’s by faith, not avoiding the law, but when delighting in it that I’m energized by the knowledge of my Savior’s fulfillment of it. It’s resting in the merit of my GOOD Shepherd, who has promised to gently lead those that are with young, that relieves me of the burden of my own inability to be a good Mom!


There is so much talk these days about how we should parent our children by showing them grace and not law. It’s motivated by a well meaning and sincere desire to overwhelm our kids with the picture of a loving God who forgives sin and deals with us graciously in contrast to burdening our children with an emphasis on keeping an outward standard and trying to appease an angry God whose law is inflexible.  But I would contend that this new emphasis may be a simple trading of one error for another.  Whereas one generation may have failed their children by giving them law without grace, another generation may fail their children by giving them grace without law!  True Godly parenting is giving them gospel, which is grace fulfilling the law. Requiring our children to fully obey God’s commands, to pray to Him, to worship Him, to be kind to others, to selflessly serve Him, to obey them that have the rule over them and to not only do these things but to do them with all their hearts (for the law reaches to the thoughts and intents of the heart) – this is the path of revealing to them their need of a Savior! Without law there is no grace. It is not one or the other, in the gospel it is both!  I would challenge us that the law, administered in gospel faith, is our sweetest and dearest tool in parenting.  It is that schoolmaster that brings our children to Christ.  It is this law that God esteemed so highly that He slew His only Begotten Son to honor it.  How it must displease Him for us to belittle that law, even if it be in a well intentioned effort to exalt His grace.  In reality, magnifying the law only magnifies grace.  And, dear mom, belittling the law only belittles God’s grace.  No matter how sincere our desire to glorify God’s grace, it cannot be accomplished without a love and appreciation for the law of God.  In our homes and in our parenting may we delight in the law of God, glory in the grace of God, and by faith GIVE THEM GOSPEL!

Categories: Christian Living