Grace is seen as a one time thing that is required to get you saved, rather than a new state of existence that makes you a new creation in Jesus. Grace is unmerited favor — with emphasis placed on unmerited rather than favor. When Jesus says you must come as a little child, this is understood as continuing to pay your penalty for your behavior via regular spankings from God rather than full of trust and hope and love the way a newborn baby is born.
It’s also very interesting to me that when a parent suggests extending grace to their child the parent is accused of permissiveness. Is God permissive? God required atonement for our sins — but not from us. That’s grace. And He does have a standard, Paul is emphatic that we are not to go on sinning so that grace may abound more! Sadly, in many church circles the idea of grace has become licentiousness, true permissiveness. Yet, if the person is coming from legalism, I can understand the pendulum swing going to the other extreme on their journey to balance in the middle. Grace is not permissiveness; it’s the relationship in which the standard is taught and enforced.
Ironically, many of the churches that view parenting and the Christian walk through punitive lenses base this belief primarily on two things from the Old Testament. One is a handful of verses that reference the “rod” which they claim to take literally but, in fact, do not. The second is a belief that the Torah, or Law, does not apply to Christians and, therefore, they neglect study of it.
If they did study more OT Scriptures than the Proverbs rod verses, they might realize that a guilty sacrifice was never a worthy one. From the very first sin of Adam and Eve it was an innocent who had to die. It’s not enough to realize that the wages of sin is death. It must be understood that once you sin you are not worthy to be your own sacrifice. This is why Jesus had to die for us. This is why Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.
Furthermore, this doesn’t just get us enough grace to get saved. It doesn’t just cleanse us of our old sins, leaving us to atone for any we commit after we’re saved as though committing those sins is an expression of ingratitude, rather than the fact that for this life we are clothed in flesh that experiences the world through senses that open us to temptation. Yet in discussing these issues with people who are entrenched in this mindset, there is a total disconnect in their argument that they are utterly blinded to. The wages of sin is death which is why Jesus had to die, this they acnowledge. But if His death wasn’t enough, if we still must pay for our own sins, or must pay for our own sins prior to our salvation, then why did He bother?
Misunderstanding the rod verses to say that children need to be spanked (however, even ancient understandings that allowed applying these verses to corporal punishment would not have imagined spankings the way they are taught today) and that they require this in order to understand grace is like saying you have to teach a child to count to 10 so that they can read. Counting numbers is a foundation for learning math, while letter and phonics recognition is the foundation for reading. Thus, the idea that children need to learn about grace by experiencing punishments is illogical. Children learn about legalism through punishments; they learn about grace through experiencing grace.
This is the reason why the churches and families I’m writing about are all confused. They live in legalism because of the very fact that they were taught as children according to the Law. They paid for their own sins, they are still required to do penance and pay for their sins, and grace is only for getting you saved which means that despite how filthy you are you will get to go to heaven. But if you want a child to grow and understand and live in grace then they have to be raised in grace — or have a serious encounter with God that changes them. That’s what happened to Paul.
Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees, was entrenched in legalism. He was raised to respect Torah, and was raised to adhere to the Hedge around Torah (the rules that the Pharisees came up with that were supposed to keep good God-fearing Jews from getting anywhere near violating Torah). It is this hedge that Jesus condemned. It is this hedge that the Pharisees were burdening the people with so that they could not stand up under the weight. And in an effort to uphold this hedge Paul was cheering on those who were killing Christians.
While on a trip to go and arrest and torture believers, Jesus himself stopped Paul and on the road to Damascus Paul was saved. Paul got grace (unmerited favor). Paul was changed and became a new creation! He stopped caring about the hedge and realized that the spirit of Torah is love. He realized that the works Jesus desired of him were not about how he dressed or who he ate with, but spreading the Gospel and healing the sick and clothing the naked. He no longer cared what someone looked like, only if they were saved and knew God’s love and had their earthly needs met until they got to Him.