For the grown-up heart:
Here's a good quote from Paul Zahl (that I found in an article by Tullian Tchividjian) about grace:
Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver (the one who loves) in relation to the receiver (the one who is loved) that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…Grace is one-way love. (emphasis mine)There are so many little graces in our lives if we look for them, but the chief example is the grace we've been given through Jesus Christ. We. did. NOT. deserve. it. It is completely unearned and undeserved. As I like to say, "Salvation is a gift in it's purest form. No strings attached." That's grace.
For the little heart:
I shared this in my gospel-centered parenting series a while back, but one of the best ways I've ever heard of to explain grace to a child is this:
A man sent his son to his room without dinner for some major disobedience. After a while, he went in to talk to his son and asked the boy what he thought his punishment should be. The boy answered with something like, "I should be grounded for 2 weeks." The father answered with, "I agree. That sounds like a fitting punishment. But instead, I'd like you to come out to the kitchen and have dinner with us and then I'm going to take you out for ice cream." The boy was puzzled but the father smiled and said, "That, my son, is grace." I'm not sure if the story is fact or fiction, but I imagine if it's true, that it's a lesson the boy never forgot.
The next time your child commits a major infraction, consider lavishing them with grace. This DEFINITELY needs to be the exception and not the rule for obvious reasons, but I can't think of a better way to help our kids understand grace than by actually extending grace to them.
Another idea is to discuss it. Following is a conversation I had with my 3 year old a few weeks ago about grace (and shared in a guest post on To Show Them Jesus). It went like this:
"Hey, when you don't eat your vegetables and throw a fit, who gets in trouble?"
He pointed to himself.
"What about when you don't clean up your toys? Does Mommy get in trouble?"
He giggled a little and said, "No."
Then I said, "But Jesus loved you so much that he said, 'Isaac, I'll get in trouble for you.' Because here's the deal: Since you sin and since Mommy sins, we can't go to heaven and live with God someday. That's not good, is it?"
He shook his head, "No."
"But Jesus said that he would take our punishment and sin away. He did that when he died on the cross. Should he have gotten in trouble for what you did?"
"You're right, but he did! And that's..."
My jaw might have dropped a little. I had talked to him several times over the past few days about what grace meant but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought he was getting it. I could have laughed and cried all at the same time!
"Yes!!" I beamed. "We get something we don't deserve!"
These two ideas aren't so much activities as they are practical ways of letting your child wrap their mind around this incredible gift. In their little black and white worlds, grace might be hard to "get" at a young age unless they get to experience it themselves in a very real way.
So, the next time your child is unbelievably difficult, don't get mad. Go out for ice cream and use a "day-ruining" experience to point your beloved child to Jesus!
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