Enjoy this guest post by Ros Otte. She was recently seen lurking on the fringes of a writer’s group, and once this indomitable encourager had been identified as a possible aspiring author, her rubber arm was easily twisted for a contribution. Here Ros muses, from the perspective of a parent, on the superiority of grace over law.
It has been said that the role of a parent is to prepare a child for the next level of life, and that is true. The means by which we do this include imposing rules and regulations, instituting boundaries, and ensuring that there are consequences for non-compliance.
Some parents, in doing so, are tyrannical and brook no opposition. Other so-called “helicopter” parents hover protectively over their children and monitor each and every move. For many children, acceptance is based on performance rather than on love. Other parents simply throw in the towel at the first hint of opposition or rebellion. The result is often a deep seated sense of insecurity in the child. This is the essence of Law. It sets rigid boundaries, and in its consequences for obedience or disobedience, it can be both tyrannical and “helicopter”. Behaviour is either right or wrong. Choices are limited and obedience is mandatory. Sadly, those under it develop few coping mechanisms, little sense of worth, and often a minimal sense of self control. Then, if there is rebellion, law has no means of recovering the rebel.
Grace, on the other hand, is at once fluid and constant. It operates within a framework of love and acceptance; it allows for getting it wrong; it never lets go, even in the face of rebellion; it sets free and permits individual choice; it unties the apron strings without letting go; it encourages and picks up the pieces when there is failure and brokenness; it enables progression from the tentative, tottering steps of a toddler, to the confident stride of a long distance runner. It says, “Come as you are”, not “clean up your act first”. Grace provides the ultimate security.
I have the privilege of living in a home with a magnificent river view. There are three fish eagles that live in the surrounding cliffs. It is a joy to watch them and the amazing thing is that I have never seen them flap their wings. They glide effortlessly, reaching great heights or almost skimming the river. They find and catch the thermals, whether the wind is howling or it is completely still, yet have no fear of falling or sense of abandonment. That’s what grace does. It is by grace that we catch the wind of the Spirit, Who keeps us secure whether there is a gale blowing or it is quiet and still. It is by grace that we walk thorough life with confidence; it is by grace that we can make choices, knowing that we are firmly placed in the thermal of the love of God. It is by grace that we are set free from the fear of failure or abandonment. It is by grace that we are loved and accepted for who we are, and not by what we achieve or how well we perform. Grace enables us to be the best we can be because it is never disapproving or judgmental. If we had to read 1 Corinthians 13:4ff – the matchless passage on love – and substituted “Grace” for “Love” nothing would change in terms of the heart of what was written. That is because grace has a name, and that name is Jesus.