The first time I heard this expression was when I was attending BSF as women’s bible study that also had a nursery, preschool, and homeschool areas where they would teach the bible concept the moms were learning too. A wonderful time I had in this program, and this is where I heard the expression, “Redemptive Discipline.”
The name redemptive strikes the heart of believers because it represents salvation from sin, and we know the only way one can be redeemed is through the saving power of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). We tend to see one of two ways when it comes to discipline (or one could also say discipleship) and that is either moralistic behaviorism or gospel-centered application, we will dive into those in a moment. But before we do, please know dear friend that just as there is grace given to our children there is also grace to you, so please read these words (as I reflect on them daily as well) and be encouraged not condemned.
If you have spent any amount of time in the parenting relm you might have heard encouragement from others saying, make sure you get your child’s heart. To me this has always and continues to feel like a very BIG task. I find inside my brain I am repeatedly ask myself: how do I win my child’s heart, and when will I know that I have won my child’s hear? I do have to confess what I have found in my own years of learning and listening to others that it is through intentionally and consistently pursuing them, BUT IN THE RIGHT WAY. Today we will be looking at one of the key ways we can go wrong as parents when we turn our children into moralistic behaviorism robots instead of pointing them to Jesus and the redemption He offers when our children sin. Lets dive in:
1. Moralism cannot reach a child’s heart.
When it comes to Moralism and moral thinking, we tend to forget Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! We cannot teach our kids out of sin, they will have sin and will struggle with sin. Just ask yourself, do you still struggle with sin at times? The truth is for the rest of our lives we will struggle at times but through redemption in Christ we are being transformed into a new creation which through HIS power abiding in HIM are able to address our sinful hearts, THROUGH HIM to be eternally saved and daily sanctified. There are plenty of ways we try to teach morality, we can even use the bible characters we to show a moral lesson. But when we try to make kids into good rule-keepers, they tend to either do one of two things: they can individually earn God’s favor (and or parents favor and love) through their GOOD BEHAVIOR or they see they will never be able to keep the rules and conclude there’s no use trying, and ultimately turn away from the faith because they think it is pointless. And sadly, both of these options are missing the WAY TO GRACE is through CHRIST ALONE, not of our own works do not one can boost.
What we ultimately see is that moralism, being a good rule follower, and people pleaser results in pride and fear in the heart of a child. Remembering that obedience in outward behavior doesn’t mean that a inner change has happened through Jesus Christ. The power of the Gospel changes us from the inside out.
2. Manipulation cannot reach a child’s heart.
This word: Manipulation, is a harsh one but as parents (if we are honest) we have done this many of times. How many times have we said something like, “I can’t believe you just did that, you should be ashamed of yourself,” or “Look at Suzy and she is behaving, why aren’t you behaving like her,” or “We just learned at church about this why are you not listening.” Even still have you ever used God to manipulation behavior by saying things like, “God doesn’t like it when you do that.” It is true God doesn’t like sin and isn’t happy when we sin BUT are we using it as a tool for training to produce guilt, and manipulate our kids to have the outward actions we want them to have? While truth needs to be spoken what is the heart of the parent when they are speaking truth, is it to get a behavior they want to see or is it to point our kids towards Jesus and the gift He gives us? We must point out sin, because if we believe we have no sin then do we need a savior? But EQUALLY IMPORTANT we have to show the GOSPEL, and God’s loving plan for his people to be redeemed through Christ. Even while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Manipulation can only produce guilt, shame, or anger in a child’s heart, BUT the gospel can create inner change, TRUE AND LASTING CHANGE.
Does that mean we shouldn’t train our children in what things are right? Absolutely NOT. Hebrew 12:10 says: They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. So YES, we absolutely need to and show train our children. God does that for us as well, which we can see is truly a lovely attribute of God, and reminds us that we also need to discipline with the heart of love towards our children.
3. We reach a child’s heart for Christ through the gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:3–4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The Gospel is the MOST IMPORTANT truth we can teach our children. The truth of the gospel is we are sinners and there is literally NOTHING we can do to EARN grace. And we are saved through GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, by CHRIST ALONE, and we know this ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE ALONE all for THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE. Gospel-centered teaching shows that God uses people who are weak and broken. just like in the Bible characters we used to teach moral lessons we can use them as well to show they are imperfect, just like us. And God did not choose Noah, Moses, and David (for example), because of their character but because of His grace, the same grace He offers us today. God knows who we are, remember He sent His son to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS. His love for us doesn’t change when we fail, He knows we will fail (for all have sinned!). God reaches a child’s heart with the truth of the gospel. The Gospel transforms your child’s heart whereas in manipulation and moralism are used to harden the hearts of our children. God in His ultimate wisdom has given us the perfect tool for parenting: the gospel. The gospel is what creates inner heart change, and eternal importance. Remember the Gospel is not just for unbelievers but believers as well because when we fix our eyes on the gospel, we are fixing our eyes on Jesus. The good news, the redemption plan is for us parents as well as our children.
Truths to hold on to:
God wants to change our hearts for eternity, NOT behavior for a moment. As parents we must be thinking past the moment and ask ourselves “is this eternal, and what can I do to train towards the eternal heart not the momentary behavior,” (we must think big picture in the little moments,) when we only have so little time with our children we must be encouraged to look at each opportunity as a moment to share the gospel with out children, but correction and training with the gospel in mind.
Redemptive discipline (growth-oriented) asks how I can help this child love God and love others. Result-oriented discipline makes children think that they can earn God’s approval and acceptance with good behavior. The gospel teaches them that they can NOT earn God’s approval or favor through their good works or good behavior but ONLY through Jesus Christ alone.
First time obedience is not wrong to expect from our children BUT WE CAN’T LEAVE IT AT OUTWARD ACTION. If our children are obedient that does NOT mean we have won their heart and it does NOT mean they have given their lives to following Christ. I say this as a reminder to myself and others to encourage us that obedience is NOT THE END GOAL. While important for safety and training, it NEEDS to be accompanied ALWAYS with the Gospel. In our home we strive to have obedience look like: 1, right away, first time obedience, 2, all the way obedience, it is not obeying if it is only part way, and 3, obedience must be done with a happy heart, to submit and respect the one giving the instruction. These things are not bad in principle or action, if fact they are very important for training our kids but when we miss the FOUNDATION for which those principles should be laid on (THE GOSPEL) then we are building on shaking ground, not a firm foundation. Obedience is important and our kids learn to obey out of love for their parents just like they will continue when they have saving faith to obey God out of love for Him. Lest us no forget that our main goal as parents is to point our children to Christ.
Lead with Love and Grow with Grace
I hope this was encouraging, it is a mindset of eyes focused on the eternal, and a reminder to always live with the Gospel in mind, hearts focused on Christ, remembering it is ALL FOR HIS GLORY!