Rules can do a lot of good for your children. God’s role for His law was to restrain and expose sin (1 Tim 1:8-11). With a clear set of good rules parents are able to protect their children from sin’s destruction. With a clear set of good rules parents are able to help their children understand and mourn their sin. Rules are a key instrument in the nurturing and maturing of children. But even the best rules simply cannot produce heart change in your child.
God’s law restrained and exposed sin so His people would know and rely on His grace. This is why God prescribed sin offerings as part of His law. One would know their need for forgiveness and that God graciously offers it to them via blood sacrifice. Today, we look to Christ’s death as our source of forgiveness and heart change (Heb 10:14). A parent’s legislative work ought to limit and reveal sin, but it cannot do what only God’s grace through Christ can do for your son or daughter’s heart – turn it to Him in repentance and faith.
In order to ensure our rules point our children to the grace of God we must first inspect our own reliance on the grace of God. Why have you established rules in your house or in public – for personal rest, productivity, respect (from your kids or others)? Or, think about your reaction to your child’s disobedience – Anger, defeat, instant punishment, or gossip? If we find that our rules are grace-less it may be that we believe rules are best used to protect our own glory or to effect the change we want in our children.
How can our rules have their proper role in our parenting? The same way it must have it’s proper place in our hearts! In Romans 7 Paul laments his law-exposed sin and exclaims “Oh, what a wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The magnificent answer follows, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Clear, good, and grace-reliant rules will help your child’s heart find God’s grace.
What do grace-reliant rules look like?
- They exclaim God’s grace, love, and faith – God’s grace overflows with faith and love in Christ (1 Tim 1:14). Let us do the same.
- They take sin and correction seriously – Being gracious doesn’t mean no punishments, instead it means that before, during, and after correction we impress our children with their need for and the effects of God’s life-changing grace.
- They have a long view of heart change – God patience is a facet of His faithfulness (Exo 34:6-7, 2 Peter 3:8). Parenting reliant on God is patient.
- They seek forgiveness from God – this is for both parents and their children, together.
- They pray to and praise God – Pray for rescue from wretchedness, praise God for His provision through Christ.