No parent gives mercy better than one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.
There have been two Christian terms that I have viewed in the past as synonymous: grace and mercy. As I have grown in my faith, I have come to understand that there is a small but significant difference between grace and mercy. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve and mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. As it relates to our relationship with Jesus Christ, grace is God crediting us Jesus’ perfect righteousness and mercy is Jesus taking on the punishment that we justly deserve. It is in this understanding that Tripp closes the last chapter of his book, Parenting. In this chapter, he takes the reader back to his key premise that we must walk in God’s mercy in order to show His mercy to our children.
There is a danger in reading this book and becoming so focused on mercy that we lose sight of justice. One of the greatest challenges facing the church today in America is we have put so much emphasis on the love of God that we lose sight of the justice of God. The irony (of course) is that we cannot fully understand God’s love and mercy if we do not first understand His justice. It was on the cross that God most clearly displayed His mercy and justice in the death of Jesus Christ.
It is important to be reminded of the coexistence of these two realities because a misunderstanding of Tripp’s book would be that we are to be so loving and merciful that our children never experience the consequences of their actions. We must always remember that discipline is designed to bring a change of heart and of behaviors. To focus on responding to our children in “tenderness, understanding, compassion and love” is not to say that we are not focused on allowing them to receive the consequences of their actions. Rather, it is to say that we are constantly pointing them back to their loving Father in Heaven who has bestowed his rich mercy and forgiveness on them even in the midst of their sin. It is tempting to “throw the book” at our children when they mess up, but over time we are constantly learning to evaluate their heart’s response to their mistakes as we determine their punishment.
Recently, one of our children made some major mistakes in their use of technology. When our child shared what had happened, there were many tears and much repentance. The process of confession and repentance was more than enough discipline in that situation. In the midst of the conversation, we were able to address the technology issues but more importantly speak to the issues of our child’s heart. Since then, we have been able to look back at the incident along with our child. One of the lessons the child pointed out was our response–our child was pleasantly surprised we didn’t come down harder. We used this time to discuss how our Heavenly Father treats us in our moments of poor judgement as well.
Tripp ends this chapter with a great question for all parents to consider as we move forward:
We hope that this book has helped you reflect and grow as a parent as much as it has helped us. We are grateful to be able to raise our children inside of the HHCA community with parents that seek to honor God and reach the hearts of their children. May God allow us to continue to truly examine our hearts as we speak into the lives of our children. To Him alone be all glory!
Hilton Head Christian Academy‘s Life+ blog was created to equip today’s Christian parents with practical tools, thought provoking content, and honest conversation.
This fall, we look forward to parenting alongside all of you through a new series based on a life-giving book by Pastor Paul Tripp: Parenting: 14 Gospel principles that can radically change your family.
Each week we will unpack them chapter by chapter right here on the Life+ blog. We hope you’ll grab a copy and dive in with us, taking time to discuss each principle with your own family and the people God has placed in your life.