By Scott Keith –
This month, my children will be 21, 19, and 16, and I think that they’ve turned out pretty well. Our oldest is a Dean’s list student at the University, a co-worker with me at 1517 the Legacy Project, a husband, and soon to be a father. Our second son is a full-time worker, lives on his own making his way, and soon to be a proud uncle. Our youngest, our daughter, is already taking college courses half-time (and doing quite well), an accomplished babysitter, and while she is very sassy (I don’t know how she came by that trait), she is also kind and sweet.
It occurred to me this morning that, while Joy and I were raising our children, I never once read a book on parenting, Christian or otherwise. In the beginning, I would say we winged it. Toward the middle, we relied on the assistance and wisdom of family and good friends. In their teenage years, we focused on a model that I think might best be described as balance which relied heavily on grace; grace for them from us, and for us from them.
The odd thing is that over the past two years, I’ve read more than 25 books on parenting. My recent ventures into the literature of “Christian parenting” has been due to my writing, Being Dad – Father as a Picture of God’s Grace. But, having written my book, I’ve developed a keen interest in reading books which are ostensibly about Christian parenting. The truth is that I would not recommend this activity to most parents. From my research, I’ve concluded that most “Christian parenting books” are driven by the law, completely legalistic, and ultimately hypocritical. In short, Christian parenting books often have more potential to harm than to help.
Then along came a little book by Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson entitled, Give Them Grace – Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. This book, from an admittedly different and distinctly Reformed perspective, accomplished many of the same things I hoped to in my book. Their work clearly and concisely explains the reality that raising children is not about producing miniature Pharisees who are always nice and never naughty. Rather, raising children is about handing over the goods of the Gospel of Christ to children day in and day. I was hooked from the start.
“Most of us are painfully aware that we’re not perfect parents. We’re also deeply grieved that we don’t have perfect kids. But the remedy to our mutual imperfections isn’t more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Christian children (and their parents) don’t need to learn to be ‘nice.’ They need the death and resurrection and a Savior, who has gone before them as a faithful priest, who was a child himself, and who loved and died perfectly in their place. They need a Savior who extends the offer of complete forgiveness, total righteousness, and indissoluble adoption to all who believe. This is the message we all need. We need the Gospel of grace and the grace of the Gospel. Children can’t use the law any more than we can because they will respond to it the same way that we do. They’ll ignore it or bend it or obey it outwardly for selfish purposes, but this one thing is certain: they won’t obey it from the heart, because they can’t. That’s why Jesus had to die.” (Pg. 17)
The message that Elyse and Jessica proclaim is not one of mindless permissiveness toward our children. Rather, they approach the law of God with complete reverence and fear—fear in the proper sense, that is respecting its holiness. They understand something that I wish more Christians comprehended, especially when it comes to preaching and parenting. They understand that, while the law may identify good works for the Christian and exhort the Christian to do those good works, it does not accomplish them in the Christian life. Only the grace of God through the Gospel of Christ completes what the law exhorts.
In fact, Elyse and Jessica accomplish something that I wish I had addressed in my book. They deal with the sections of Scripture––especially in the book of Proverbs––which seem to exhort parents to focus on discipline rather than the grace of God, which He has given to us all, even our children, on account of Christ. The ladies remind their readers to see Christ in all the Scriptures saying: “Every passage of Scripture and, in fact, every occurrence in all of creation has its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.” (Pg. 98) And also, “If we approach the proverbs believing that the entire Bible ‘whispers his name,’ if we come with open eyes, looking for our Savior, we’ll easily identify him as the Wise Son.” (Pg. 99)
It is good for all of us to remind ourselves that Christ believed all of the Old Testament looked forward to Him, as we learn from those fateful words from the Gospel of Luke. “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” All the Scriptures testify to Christ, even the wisdom literature to parents in the book of Proverbs.
In short, Give Them Grace tells parents to do just that: give children grace! It is not a perfect work, but it is splendid. Lutheran readers may want to remember that it is from a distinctly Reformed perspective, and at times that reality is easily discernable. Yet, whether you are Lutheran, Reformed, or Evangelical, you will not go wrong buying and reading this little work. In it, parents will hear something that they may have never heard before, but that they need to understand. In this book, parents will encounter the message that their real calling is to amaze their children with the Gospel of Christ Jesus!
“So go ahead. Freely dazzle your babies with the cross of Christ. Give them grace when they succeed and when they fail. Show them how much he loves little children, like you.” (Pg. 166) What an incredible message put forth in an utterly beautiful manner. Well done ladies! May God bless your work as you hand over the goods of God’s amazing grace on account of Christ to parents and babies everywhere.
You may also want to check them out on my new favorite podcast: