A Lesson in Grace
I believe that one of the best ways you can love your children is to give them clear and reasonable expectations that are met with clear and reasonable consequences when the expectations are not followed. In that regard, my three year old son, Rusty, knows that he must behave during dinner and eat his meal if he is to expect to receive any sort of dessert afterwards. About a month or so ago, Shirley, the kids, and I were out to eat at a restaurant and Rusty's behavior was questionable at best. I reminded him that if his behavior continued he would not get a treat and, unfortunately for him, his behavior did continue. He sat sullenly in remorse as he watched his mommy, daddy, and sissy enjoy a large hot fudge sundae. Never once did he exhibit any anger or ask to have a bite of the dessert; he knew that he was not getting any because of behaviors and consequenecs that he chose. As the last few bites of the dessert remained and I saw that Rusty had seemingly taken ownership of his behavior, I decided that there was an opportunity to teach Rusty a lesson in grace.
Ephesians 1:7 - In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
I asked Rusty, "Do you deserve the last few bites of this dessert?" His honest reply was, "No." I probed further, "Why not?" He plainly admitted, "Because I wasn't being a gentleman." I reminded Rusty about a conversation we'd had not so long ago about what grace means: not getting what you deserve. In his terms, I let him know that I appreciated his contrition and wanted to show him my appreciation by showing him grace and allowing him to have the last few bites of ice cream. To see that kid's face light up! It gave me great pleasure to demonstrate grace to my son and I couldn't help but feel like I better understood how it pleases Our Father to demonstrate grace to us on a daily basis. I was also further impressed that Rusty later vocalized his thankfulness for the grace that I showed him.
However, very shortly after we got home, his behavior took a turn for the worse and he did something that both he and I knew merited a time-out. Upon being informed of the consequence of his action, Rusty's immediate and excited response was, "Grace! Grace!" I was amazed at how quickly Rusty's response to grace turned from thankfulness to wanting to abuse it! I couldn't help but think of how often we as Christians respond in the same way to the grace of God that is daily demonstrated to us. I reminded Rusty that the grace I showed him did not mean that he could now act however he wanted and expect to not face any consequences. I think he understood, yet at the same time he can still be quick to play the grace card. He often needs reminders that grace is not something that ought to be exploited. Are we not the same way?
Romans 6:1-2 - What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!
Hebrews 10:26-29 - If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.... How... severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Rusty's response to me and the incredulous feelings I had as a father in response to him helped me better understand how we ought to respond to the Spirit of grace demonstrated to us when Christ, in the ultimate act of sacrifice, went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. The appropriate and obliging response to such grace is not to use it as a liscense to sin, but to recognize and be thankful of what was done on our behalf. We demonstrate that thankfulness by being sincerely grateful in prayer, contrite in repentance, and obedient to what we've been called to be.
John 14:23 - Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."