Law and Grace

I’ve been thinking lately about the relationship of law and grace. Now when I say that, I do not mean I have been reading heady theological tomes. ‘Fraid not. But I have been thinking, and this is what occurred to me.

My husband often emphasizes that law exists within the larger context of grace. In other words, acres and acres of grace, and one tree of law. Thus, the Garden of Eden: lots of trees with good fruit to eat, and only one tree off limits. We often get this the wrong way around: we think of the relationship of law and grace as a forest of forbidden trees, with one permissible tree in the midst. Are you with me so far?

So when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, it was a place of grace. Grace, grace, grace on every side until the fateful day that they disobeyed God. Then it became all law, law, law for them.

I was thinking about a place like Logos School. For most of the kids it is a place of grace. They thrive like crazy. But for the kid who does not want to tuck in his shirt (for just one example), it becomes a place of law, law, law. If he would just tuck his shirt in, he would experience the grace. But as long as he insists on not tucking it in, it seems like everyone is just out to get him! Funny how our attitude and obedience affect our understanding of the surrounding context.

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16 thoughts on “Law and Grace

  1. I had the privilage recently of riding with a van full of Logos students that had bumped into the law over the years. They had a wonderful sense of grace in their response to it, which made me profoundly grateful to have my children there. Those laws have kept them safe all these years, and provided some pretty funny stories too.

  2. The kid who fights about the shirt is probably fighting about a lot of other authority issues, as well. It sounds melodramatic, but that kid is on a path of destruction. It isn’t just about the shirt.

  3. Okay, if the kid is refusing to keep his shirt tucked in (still just an example), he may be on the path to destruction. But having raised more than a few boys of my own who were required to keep their shirts tucked in (among some other laws-of-the-house), I can earnestly and sincerely say that I had one son who did not receive the shirt-tucked-in gene, as we liked to say. There was a true difference, and he was not on the path to destruction.

  4. Pat,
    My post was not really about tucked in shirts, but about our perception of grace when we are breaking the rules deliberately, whatever they are. So this was not about neatness/tidiness issues at all. The shirt was (as you mentioned) just an example.

  5. Great analogy. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about submission, so it makes me think of that as well. For a wife who just fights and resists the concept, as I once did, all you see is fences. You feel caged, trapped. But once you settle down, you realize you’re in beautiful green pasture, protected and free. Thanks.

  6. The problem comes when tucking in one’s shirt tail leads to reprimands like “so and so tucked in his shirt with a bigger, more obedient smile” or “don’t think that tucking in your shirt means I actually like you -it just means you’re not on my really bad child list this instant.” I know that this isn’t the sort of instance Mrs. Wilson is describing, but unfortunately some kids do experience this. It can be really confusing to know that obeying the law is good and yet never really come out into that place of grace.

    I only mention it because I’ve struggled to see law and grace in their proper relationship.

  7. Nancy,
    This helps a lot. As a Kindergarten teacher(at a classical, Christian school) parents are often frustrate with me because obedience is not an option is the classroom. I try to explain that things will go well for their child if obeying becomes a habit. This year I had one mother say “can’t you just love him the way he is?” I of course said, “Yes that is why I don’t allow him to disobey.” I think this analogy will help to explain things. I abolutely love teaching 5/6 year olds but I am always surprised that the parents follow the world so easily. By the end of the year the parents start to trust me a little and then it’s time to move on.

  8. I was misunderstood; I tried to take the analogy too far:-/

    The child who willfully disobeys may be on the path to destruction, and must learn to obey the law. And yes, it may seem to him that all are against him, which may even work to hasten his desire to obey.

    The child who fails to obey for other reasons, such as the sheer difficulty of keeping it all together, immaturity, etc may not be on the path to destruction. He may actually require grace, or loving reminders, to overcome his difficulty in keeping the law.

    We adults are not able to keep all of the law either, hence the need for a savior!

  9. Brandi, I must admit that the wives submitting to husbands wasn’t on my mind. I was thinking more of Children honoring parents with the first promise attached, that it would go well for them and that one would have a longer life.. The general opposite is that things don’t go well for the disobedient and that they don’t necessarily have a longer life. The shirt tucked out, when it is willfully done, is the second path, even though it doesn’t seem like it when the little one is six.

  10. Mrs. Wilson,
    If you can see my email address on here somehow, would it be at all possible for you to send me a quick line? I have a particular question to ask you in hopes of a small measure of great wisdom in return.
    Thank you!
    Bless you for your ministry.

  11. What a beautiful post (one tree of law in extensive acres of grace).

    I grew up in a law setting and it seems like I continue to see things that way — not because I’m trying to have my shirt untucked. Rather, I must always have it perfectly tucked in. And then I check to see if everyone else is as nicely tucked in as me. Which, I realize, is a complete miss on grace.

    I don’t wish to see things this way, but don’t know very well how to reset my thinking so that it doesn’t default to forests of law. How do you retrain your eyes and heart to see the abundance of grace?

  12. Try thanking God for little things, a blue sky, your child’s compliment, you were right on Final Jeopardy. Don’t do it all the time with that goal because you will get stuck on a law track on that, too. Ask God how to see the world rightly. He iks not going to ignore that request if you mean it.

  13. While talking to my two older kids about 9/11, we also talked about law and grace. I used the illustration of the Tree of the Law versus the Acres of Grace. They loved it! We talked about when each of us (including me) focuses on the Law and what results. We had a great conversation today discussing Muslims, Jews, Christians enslaved to the Law, Grace compared to licentiousness, the fruit of Grace, and on and on. Thanks for another insightful post! 🙂

  14. For a great read on the law and grace issue I HIGHLY recommend Timothy Keller’s “The Prodigal God.” It will bring you up short and radically change your perspective oh law and grace.

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