Parenting Wisdom from the Gospel of John

We like to dive into Bible verses, and their implications on the family. And I have been absolutely obsessed recently, with a single verse in John 1, when it comes to family, when it comes to parenting, I think it’s probably my favorite, at least at the moment. My favorite summary of what parenting is all about. And it’s John 1:17, and it simply says this, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” And I think that that verse, that single verse sums up both the tensions that are involved in parenting, and the journey of parenting, all in one verse. So what is the journey of parenting? Let me start there. The journey of parenting is from the law to the gospel. And that’s exactly what the Apostle John is describing here, that all of human history can be summed up as a journey, in some sense, from the law to the gospel.

Now, there’s a larger story that brackets that one, but that’s really the story that so many of us are in as we’re trying to grow, and trying to see, and understand, and receive the gospel. We begin by understanding we’re fallen. God created a great world, but the law came to try to create some boundaries, to try to bring some order into the chaos that sin was creating. And so this is oftentimes what happens for so many parents in the early stages. They’re bringing law into the life of their children, their toddler, or their really young kids trying to bring some structure, trying to give them some real strong, clear guardrails to butt up against in order to sort of reduce the chaos, even the emotional chaos that the kids are feeling, so that they begin to inhabit a world of order.

But that’s not the point. The point is not so that they can enjoy the law. The point is, so that they can receive the gospel, so that they can understand and delight in what Jesus has come to do. Believe that he came to fulfill the law, and so that we can sort of transcend the focus of the law as being the way in which we try to please God, or certainly the way in which we try to obtain salvation. Now, the second part of this, that’s the journey from really the law to the gospel. But then, there’s also just the tension of what you’re trying to balance as a parent. And so that’s really when he says, “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Much of what we’re talking to you guys about is that most parents tend to have a tendency to default towards grace or truth.

That’s just the parenting dilemma. No one is a 10 at both, right? And most people are like, “I love grace, I love pouring grace out on my kids, I love forgiving my kids, I love letting them just do whatever they want, and then just showing them grace, and that’s amazing.” And so, some parents love that, and that’s just kind of their temperament. Other parents are like, “I love training my kids, I love laying down the law, I love speaking the truth over my kids, I love watching them learn things and understand things, and I don’t mind the process of discipline and correction and all of that.” So, that is the tension. And what we’ve told you guys is that parenting is really about the skill of being a 10 at both. And that’s really difficult, but this verse is really describing the challenge, or the tension of trying to both love our kids in a very forgiving, graceful way, but also being very direct, giving them guidelines, showing them the truth, talking to them about what that is.

And so there’s no way to resolve that, whether we’re going to resolve that in five minutes. You guys, that is just what it means to be a parent. And what’s amazing, you guys is that is the journey and tension that every single one of us is really on in our own lives. That’s what maturity looks like for me and for you as a dad. It looks like trying to understand this journey from the law to the gospel. And it’s trying to understand how to balance grace and truth in our lives.

And guys, your children are an amazing tool in your own maturity and development. They are of course, much more than that, but man, it’s amazing to get to really work out this journey and this tension in your own parenting, instead of like seeing it as a chore or as a frustration, see it as this is just life you guys, this is what life is about, this journey, and this tension. And we get to play it out every single day as dads, as we interact with our kids. And so, the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, really sums up the whole of what the parenting journey really entails. But yeah, Jeff, how do you feel about this one?

Yeah, I wouldn’t add much more, but I would just reiterate what you said. I think it’s really important, and it’s been helpful to me to see the order of the metanarrative of scripture, which is Torah, then gospel, right? Or that. But it has to point to the gospel. I think, you even see Yahweh getting a little upset and frustrated, right? When it starts to devolve into, oh, this is the only thing, and will only ever be the only thing. And you start seeing people like David, Micah, I mean, it’s just all over. Especially once you start getting into the middle of the old Testament, that starts realizing, no, the Torah is so beautiful and amazing, but something else has to happen. Something else has to come, and that’s Jesus, that’s the gospel, that’s the Messiah.

And so I just think that order’s really helpful with parenting, that the foundation is the law, but which by the way, the law was still covenantal. When we hear that, we think, Oh, do this, and then you’ll be loved. When it’s, no, the law was so deeply covenantal, in the sense of when we see it, he called out a people, he brought a people out, based on nothing that they did. Basically, he called them by name, then gave them the Torah, the way to live the law. So, first of all, it’s not like this thing of, do this and then you’ll be loved. It was actually covenantal from the beginning. It was relational and about their name, and calling them out from the beginning. But the orders then still matters of understanding that. I just see that, especially in those younger years of… I’m actually setting a foundation of that Torah, that law, which then the gospel will be able to better saturate as you consistently go forward.

Now, of course, there’s a crossover there where you still, hopefully being gospel-centered, still being soft at heart, repentance, the spirit of Jesus from day one. So it’s not like it’s just, boom, boom. They would be like, “This is like the first 10 years, this is the second 10 years.” But I think that order really does help see, and keep you firm in understanding what you’re trying to build, and what you’re trying to do to create Jesus-following kids who love him, who have a heart for him, who understand his truth, understand his world.

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