Thursday, November 10, 2011

SPANKING, a means of grace?

Having thoughtful Christian friends is such an encouragement to me. And even though I'm loathe to admit that electronic technology has its advantages, being able to keep in touch with a friend who is living and serving on another continent by means of electronic media is a great blessing. Just yesterday a good friend of mine wrote and opened the discussion about when a child may be too old for spanking. Here were my responses in two installments:

Spanking. So counter-intuitive feeling sometimes (maybe all the time), isn’t it? We use it for blatant disobedience and defiance, not for a kid being an immature kid. Looking back, I wish I had addressed some issues of pride and self-righteousness in my kids hearts more intentionally, but no spanking will help there. I tell Giles (almost 9), “do you want Moses or Jesus?” Moses and the law is where the spankings come in. 

The Law is important and we all need it: but as Paul David Tripp has it, “The rules reveal and restrain sin, but they have no power to rescue us from it.” Yet God has consequences for our violation of the law, and so must we have in our homes. If his heart is hard and he refuses grace by defiance, then I must spank him. But that’s not the end of it, of course. I then want to do what the law is designed to do—lead us to Christ! So then it’s the gospel and showing him the ugliness of sin and guilt, what it cost Jesus on the cross, and then showing him the beauty of forgiveness, the freeness of grace, we don’t deserve it, can’t earn it, and then I want to dazzle him with that grace, the only means by which his hard heart can be softened. 

And Pray without ceasing. I’ve been recently convicted about having a deeper, more genuine sense of my own weakness and neediness, which leads me to crying out to God in prayer. I want to be more intentional about praying with and for my family, and doing so on the moment: “let’s stop and pray about this,” and then doing it.

Spanking, when it comes to that, and praying—they go hand in hand. I don’t think there’s a date-on-the-calendar cut-off for spanking. Each child is so different. [name omitted to protect the guilty] I had to spank last (sure hope it’s last—he’s almost 18 now and I’m convinced past spanking) when he was fourteen: issue? He had shot Giles at close range with an air soft gun and left a welt on the then 5 year old kid. But it wasn’t that in itself. It was the culmination of escalating unkindnesses to his little brother that verbal rebuking and encouraging had not halted. As much as I would hope that 14 is too old for spanking, I was very grateful that I had that in, by then remote, reserve so that the rod of the Law could be laid on his backside. Graciously the Spirit used the spanking as a means of grace in his heart. There has been good fruit as a result of that foretaste of pain and suffering in hell that awaits the intractable rebel encased in a spanking.    

[2] We realize that we are approaching parenting differently in some respects with our younger family than with our older ones. And the key difference is that we care a great deal more about the heart now than the outward behavior. Before, I must confess, I was more concerned about outward conformity and how my kids made me look to others (I’ll pause while you run to the WC and throw up, but there’s the facts, to my shame). And the only way to a kid’s (or a parent’s) heart is by the unconditionally free grace of the gospel. Period. I think there was a guy named Schaeffer-something who kept haranguing on that one, wasn’t there? 

Spanking motivated by a desire to alter behavior to placard my great parenting will fall far short of the mark. But when necessary, spanking as a loving means of grace to show how ugly, how self-destructive, how enervating, and how much a slap in the face to Jesus sin is, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, will bear the fruit of the Spirit in the changed heart of our kids. We have the promise of God on that one. BTW, I had to spank [name omitted to protect the guilty] just last night, though it has been several weeks before that. Sometimes the long stretches are times of growth in grace in his heart. Other times it is my sinful reluctance to believe what God says about this less-than-enjoyable means of grace. Thanks for praying.


  1. You were concerned about how your kids made you look? No.... really?

    (And I thought I was the only one guilty of that. I guess parents' hearts are the same the world over, just like kids' heart. And just like the forgiveness of Christ.
    Where would we be without mercy...)

  2. Is it possible to spank a 14-year-old in a way that actually hurts? I also think there are some issues of modesty at hand there.