"But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2.
The law. It's gotten a bum wrap in our day and age. Modern western society tends to see it as oppressive, authoritarian, an enemy of true freedom. And, unfortunately, the sentiment has seeped into how we understand faith and God as well as how we raise our children.
Granted, both nations and religions have abused "law" in many ways over the human history which fuels the case against it. Legalistic churches condemning the down and out portrays a stark contrast of what Christ called the church to be. And so we ridicule "law" and champion "grace" to such an extent that we have cheapened what grace truly is.
The psalmist rhapsodizes over and over again about his love for the law of the Lord. He has a passion for it. It is precious to him.
We tend to turn up our noses at it, commenting "Well, I'm glad I live the age of grace."
But in doing so we miss the point! The law is our friend, precisely because it condemns us. Without it, we would be clueless as to how bad off we really are. Without it, we could pretend that we are good enough. We could evaluate ourselves according to our own deeds and feel quite smug and self-righteous. And we are prone to these very attitudes.
We need the law because without it, we CANNOT understand grace.
I believe there is a reason so much of the Bible is Old Testament -- life under the law. Law is the very foundation to understanding grace. Without the law there is no grace.
But the modern Christian era tends to want to ignore law in the name of grace and this paradigm impacts all areas of our life, especially how we parent. The trend in past generations was toward authoritarian parenting and there was plenty of baggage that came with with that. In reaction to that, we've thrown out strong adherence to rules in exchange for a kinder, gentler style of parenting. Today, parents do not say "no" to their children. There are not absolute rules, and misbehavior does not have consequences. Children are free to question their parents with the ugliest attitudes imaginable. Backtalk is accepted even at the earliest ages and respect has gone the way of eight-track tapes and celluloid films.
We may think we are teaching our children about grace with our unconditional acceptance of their bad behavior, but I would argue that we actually may be creating barriers to their very salvation.
Think about it.
The child who has a clear cut set of reasonable rules that when broken incur consistent consequences (punishment) understands earlier and more clearly that sin has consequences or that "the wages of sin is death."
But the child who faces no rules and/or no consequences for misbehavior has no frame of reference for this foundational concept of faith. How can he grasp the idea that Jesus took on the consequence of our sin when he has never experienced that sin or bad actions have consequences?
In my years of teaching in Hungarian public schools as well as doing kids ministry, I've witnessed the trend toward permissiveness and in Christian circles it is often framed in terms of teaching loving grace.
But in truth we are doing our children no favors if we try to teach them grace without first laying a clear foundation of law. By this I am not talking about the authoritarian parenting of generations past, but rather clear-cut reasonable rules that we can enforce with consistency. Rules that establish the principle that sin has its consequences which cannot be escaped.
Because then and only then can we truly begin to teach our children of the spectacular mysterious gift of God's grace.
The Psalmist had it right. The law is not our enemy. It should be our delight because it brings us into the fullness of His magnificent grace. And that is worth meditating on, both day and night.