A Jagged Contention: A Gracious Father

“First, a dad is a model of grace in the home. The fact that we believe that the Gospel is true and that we have a Father who sent His own Son so that we could be His children necessarily affects our view of father and the other way around as well. There is a misconception out there that if children grow up to be “bad,” it is because there was not enough law in their lives. Maybe, we think, if their parents had just been harder on them, stricter disciplinarians, the would have turned out better. I think the real misunderstanding is that we are blind as to how much law is present in our everyday lives. The world gives us plenty of law—law in abundance! What everyone, especially families and children, really need is grace. Fathers need to remember that we will never be able to give enough grace to offset the amount of law that our children receive in their everyday lives. It is just not possible. You may not even be able to hit the fifty-fifty mark; you’ll constantly be in a deficit. We need more grace and more Gospel desperately. The is why the father in the prodigal son is such a striking figure. He does the unexpected; he hands out grace when our inclination is that more law is needed.”

– Scott Keith, Being Dad: Father as a Picture of God’s Grace, pg. 46


Why are we so reticent to show kids grace? Though it is obvious that discipline is necessary, why do we shy away from showing mercy? Do you have an example of how your father showed you grace and the impact it made on you?


4 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: A Gracious Father

  1. Great topic and great quote from “Being Dad: Father as a picture of God’s Grace.”
    I think parenthood and raising kids is somewhat complicated (no news there). Being a new dad (my son is 3 and half), I need to teach my son about faith and character (belief, trust, grace, courage, honesty, as well as other principles), but I also need to teach him skills (tying a shoe, POTTY TRAINING {I welcome any tips}, reading, etc). I think learning a skill requires training and practice. I love golf, but the only way to play well is to have coaching and practice. If a golfer does not listen to their coach, the game will have no mercy and the golfer will not improve. To me, this process seems to be 100% law, no gospel. It’s all up to me: no one will play well on my behalf.

    Developing faith and character seems different than simply receiving instructions and practicing a skill until you get it. The best tools I’ve seen in this regard are honest discussions, honest but loving feedback, prayer, and lots of love and reassurance. It requires a thoughtful application of law and gospel.
    I think parents (or other authorities) are reticent to show grace because they think that the methods used for teaching skills should also be used for teaching faith and character.

    Several other reasons convince parents that more law/less gospel is needed (controlling parents, not knowing the importance and benefits of regularly sharing the gospel).

    Grace from Dad

    My Dad has shown me grace in many ways, and about 5-6 instances stand out more than the others. During my first summer home from college, I worked for my Dad’s masonry business. We had just grouted a wall, and Dad asked me to lift him up to the top (12 feet up) using an empty pallot set on a fork-lift so he could cut the tips of re-bar. I complied, sort of.
    Once I’d raised him to the top, he leaned forward to start cutting the steel. As he leaned forward, I let my foot off of the brake, and the whole lift rolled backward 1-2 feet. He lunged forward slightly, but he didn’t fall (cat-like reflexes?). I can’t repeat his immediate comment, but he then patiently explained how to set the e-brake to stabilize the lift and then he cut the re-bar. I am thankful that he let me live. In a short moment (in his look), I perceived his wisdom (he knew that I was young and not familiar with forklifts) and his love, and I’ll never forget that.
    I used to sail with my dad quite a bit. We’d sail out of Ventura and go to the islands nearby. We sailed to Santa Cruz Island one time, and it was beautiful during the morning, but the wind picked up in the afternoon. The island blocked the wind for about 2 hours, but when we moved out from the shelter of the island, the ocean was quite rough. The wind chop was 3-4 feet tall, and the boat (22 foot sloop) tossed wildly to and fro. I was terrified, but he had seen weather like that before and knew what to do. His confidence gave me hope, and everything turned out just fine. His confidence and experience have given me hope during many other difficult times.


    1. I somehow missed all of this when it went up. Jim, great stories. From listening to you and Joe talk about your dad, and from knowing him just a little, it seems like you guys really hit the jackpot. I especially loved: “In a short moment (in his look), I perceived his wisdom (he knew that I was young and not familiar with forklifts) and his love, and I’ll never forget that.” Thanks for writing and hope you are very well.


  2. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are troublesome for me. I did not grow up with wonderful parents. I credit them with one thing, bringing me to church. Where I was there was neither sound discipline or grace. Rather, there was addiction – gambling and alcohol – and enabling, narcissism and selfishness.

    God rescued me, provided a fine wife, two children, and enough struggle in life to keep me on my toes. What I learned growing up was what wasn’t right. My children, their interests and needs, their quirks, and charm taught me so much about love. Where my parents shared few interests with me, I’ve shared my childrens’ and they’ve grown to share mine. We’ve grown through Pokemon and camping, scouting and soccer, fishing and paddling, books and music to sharing a good microbrew or single-malt, appreciating good food. My family, originally Roman Catholic, now attends church with me. When things are rough, they know they can come to me and we can pray, open a Bible, talk, find a refuge. If their friends are struggling, they know the door is open.

    There is nothing in this world that teaches one to be a father better than one’s own children. I truly believe God uses them to make fathers out of us, just like our wives make us husbands. It takes more than vows and more than conception, God works through these others to mold us into what our wives and children need. Just as our families make us what we are at home, our church families work to mold us in discipleship. What an Almighty God who can use such creatures as us to accomplish such marvelous things!


  3. Great comment! I grew up without a father and I think you a probably right; “There is nothing in this world that teaches one to be a father better than one’s own children. I truly believe God uses them to make fathers out of us, just like our wives make us husbands.” Well said. I would encourage you to also find comfort in the reality that God will use you to create a picture (foggy as it may be) in your own children of what He is through you. This is something that you and I did not have directly, but it seems like your kids do. Thanks for reading.


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