Grace in Disguise

Grace and Sin

“Couldn’t we just show her grace?”

“I think the best course of action is to show grace.”

“I’ve decided not to discipline him, but to give him grace.”

We’ve all heard these comments from parents, counselors, teachers, and others who make decisions regarding behavioral issues.  And like many things that we hear and repeat, it is helpful to examine these statements further. Often we hear these phrases when the authority has decided that the sin in question should be overlooked and that there should be no consequences as a result. The individual has sinned in some way, but discipline just seems too harsh or wrong at this time.

Withholding Consequences

But, is that really what grace is? Does the definition of showing grace mean that we don’t give consequences for sin as a result of choices?  Is a mom really being “grace-less” when she chooses to discipline her child for sinful behavior? Is a counselor really lacking grace when he chooses to allow the counselee to bear the weight of consequences?

According to the dictionary, grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration and sanctification.” [1] Or, more broadly, grace is God’s unmerited favor toward man. Let’s return to our examples of “grace” above. Withholding consequences for sin is one means of showing grace to the sinning counselee or child.

Allowing Consequences

Is there a type of grace that would give consequences? Consider these verses. “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” [2] Only a parent who “hates” his child will refuse to give consequences. In the book of Hebrews we read, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” [3] This passage goes on to say that if you are not disciplined, you are not in God’s family. Discipline is proof of His love. “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” [4] It is loving and appropriate to give consequences for sin. God is treating us as his very own children when he gives consequences. He is showing his acceptance of us. Unmerited favor. It is “grace” then, to give loving consequences for sinful behavior.

While it is sometimes an appropriate act of grace to divert a sinner’s consequences, or to help lighten the load if the consequences are crushingly heavy, it is equally an act of grace at times, to give appropriate consequences.

Love should cover a multitude of sins, and we should bear one another’s burdens, but to consider these acts as the only means of showing grace is missing the grace involved in God’s loving discipline. It is loving and grace-filled to mete out discipline and allow consequences in the hope of turning the sinner from his ways and instructing him in righteousness. It is the “disguised grace” of discipline, which is most appropriate in certain circumstances.

As we counsel, may we convey an accurate working definition of grace to those who come to us for help; a definition of grace that includes correction and discipline. We all need God’s loving grace-filled correction to help us be more like His Son.

[1] Merriam-Webster

[2] Pr 13:24

[3] Heb 12:7

[4] Pr 3:11-12, Pr 13:24, Heb 12:7

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Susan BlakeSusan Blake
Susan Blake has been married to Joe since 1981. They are the parents of five children and have three grandchildren. Susan is a certified biblical counselor with the ACBC and she counsels in various ministries at Faith Church.