From Tim Kimmel’s chapter “The Freedom to Make Mistakes” in his book Grace-Based Parenting:
Legalistic parents maintain a relationship with God through obedience to a standard. The goal of this when it comes to their children is to keep sin from getting into their home. They do their best to create an environment that controls as many of the avenues as possible that sin could use to work its way into the inner sanctum. . . . It’s as though the power to sin or not to sin was somehow connected to their personal will power and resolve. . . . These families are preoccupied with keeping sin out by putting a fence between them and the world.
The difference with grace-based families is that they don’t bother spending much time putting fences up because they know full well that sin is already present and accounted for inside their family. To these types of parents, sin is not an action or an object that penetrates their defenses; it is a preexisting condition that permeates their being. The graceless home requires kids to be good and gets angry and punishes them when they are bad. The grace-based home assumes kids will struggle with sin and helps them learn how to tap into God’s power to help them get stronger.
It’s not that grace-based homes don’t take their children’s sin seriously. Nor is it that grace-based homes circumvent consequences. It isn’t even that grace-based homes do nothing to protect their children from attacks and temptations that threaten them from the outside. They do all these things, but not for the same reasons. Grace-based homes aren’t trusting in the moral safety of their home or the spiritual environment they’ve created to empower their children to resist sin. . . . They assume that sin is an ongoing dilemma that their children must constantly contend with.
[Children in a grace-based family] are accepted as sinners who desire to become more like Christ rather than be seen as nice Christian kids trying to maintain a good moral code. Grace is committed to bringing children up from their sin; legalism puts them on a high standard and works overtime to keep them from falling down.
Grace understands that the only real solution for our children’s sin is the work of Christ on their behalf. . . . Legalism uses outside forces to help children maintain their moral walk. Their strength is based on the environment they live in. Grace, on the other hand, sees the strength of children by what is inside them—more specifically, Who is inside them.
HT: Sally Michael
- Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
- William P. Farley, Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting