What Is Grace?
About the Guest
Author and mother of two Karis Kimmel Murray explains that grace is giving something not necessarily deserved. Just like God, who often gives us what we need over what we like, parents are tasked with extending grace to their children. Murray illustrates what it's like to let grace define your relationships even when the other person disappoints you.
Karis Kimmel Murray explains that grace is giving something not necessarily deserved. Murray illustrates what it’s like to let grace define your relationships even when the other person disappoints you.
What Is Grace?
Bob: As parents, we have a responsibility to discipline our children—but we need to be careful that we’re not punishing them. Here’s Karis Kimmel Murray.
Karis: Punishment and discipline are actually opposites. They have some things in common. So, we think they are the same thing, but punishment is done to appease justice on behalf of whoever was victimized—but discipline is actually done on behalf of the offender. It’s motivated by love for the person who did the thing—not by a desire to seek justice for the person who was offended.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to spend some time today looking at what grace-based discipline looks like as you raise your children. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I had kind of an “Aha” moment not long ago. Some of our listeners know that we’re right in the middle of a project we’re working on here to create a video series around parenting. As a part of that project, I’ve been sitting down with a number of authors, pastors, speakers—doing interviews about parenting. One of the people I sat down with was Kevin DeYoung.
Kevin’s been a guest here on FamilyLife Today and was on our Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise last year. I was asking him about parenting, and I asked him the question, “How do you decide—as a parent—when your kids are going to get grace and when they’re going to get discipline?”
Here was his answer—this was my “Aha” moment. He said, “Our kids always should get grace.” He said, “Sometimes, the grace they get is discipline.” [Laughter]
I thought, “You know, that’s a good answer because most of us tend to think that grace means no punishment—discipline means punishment.” But I thought, “Kevin was right. Sometimes, the grace God gives us is the grace of discipline—and sometimes, that’s what our kids need.”
Dennis: We’re joined today by Karis Kimmel Murray who knows a little bit about growing up in a home that is reportedly grace-based parenting. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Karis: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Is that true?
Dennis: Was there a lot of grace in the Kimmel household growing up?
Karis: Absolutely. It was not just this idea that my parents wrote about and spoke about—it is what they lived.
Dennis: Karis has been married to Mike since 2001. They have two teenage daughters, and she does work for her mom and dad at Family Matters. She is Creative Director there.
Bob: In case folks don’t recognize the last name Kimmel, your mom and dad, Tim and Darcy Kimmel are authors and speakers.
For years, they have spoken at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, and they’ve written extensively on the subject of marriage and parenting and family issues—including a book called Grace Based Parenting.
You’ve now written Grace Based Discipline. I’m just curious—did you think grace and discipline were the opposites of each other when you started writing this, or did you have a good understanding that discipline is a part of grace?
Karis: Well, I love your conversation with Kevin DeYoung because I’ve had similar conversations with people. Our ministry talks to people all the time who will say something to the effect of—“Well, you know, Cameron—he hit is sister, but I decided to give him grace.” And my dad is usually quick to correct and say, “Well, that’s not the same thing.” Permissiveness is not the same thing as grace. Mercy isn’t the same thing as grace, and mercy is a positive thing—but mercy and grace are different.
So, I think I knew because I had just simply lived it out within our family growing up—that discipline is a form of grace.
Dennis: Well, let’s define grace for a second—because it’s something that is thrown around, maybe, at times, like a slang word within the Christian community. We say grace, we talk about being saved by grace—
Karis: Yes. We talk about falling from grace, which I don’t even really understand that statement.
Dennis: Yes, really.
Karis: Doesn’t even—
Dennis: It doesn’t compute; does it?
Karis: That’s not possible.
Dennis: So, define it for us.
Karis: We like to say that grace is giving somebody something that they desperately need but don’t necessarily deserve—and the thing that they need could be different from moment to moment. That’s what God does with us. He knows what we need—not necessarily what we want or what we like or what feels good—but He knows what we need, and He knows that we certainly don’t deserve His goodness and His favor.
We don’t deserve it, but He has chosen—in His love for us—to give it to us anyway.
Dennis: You and your husband Mike are parents to two teenage daughters.
Dennis: That’s a recipe for grace-based discipline. Give us an illustration—recently, okay? You don’t have to name the names; okay?
Karis: I’ll give you an example of disciplining incorrectly and then, having to go back and do some damage control.
When I was at our ministry at Family Matters, meeting with my production team and my publishing team—people there who I was trying to impress—my girls were on a break from school for that week, so I needed to go into the office that day. We have a shopping mall that’s just right next door to our offices, so I could leave them there and say, “Okay, at this time, I want you to walk on over and check in with me—just let me know how you’re doing.”
As I’m meeting with my publishing team, they walk in to check in—and they are both very tall.
They grow out of clothes quickly—and one of my daughters—she was wearing a shirt that was not as long as her torso. Really, it was a last minute decision to bring them to the mall. They kind of got in the car fast. I didn’t even think about it until the moment she walked in—and here I am the—you know—trying to win at parenting and be this parenting book author.
So, here is what I did in that moment. I saw people notice. I got embarrassed and I said, “Wow—that was a nice shirt choice—awesome. Why don’t you walk down the hall and go show your papa your shirt and see what he thinks?” I kind of berated her in front of everyone.
So, here’s—I think here’s how grace comes into play. Sometimes, grace is retroactive. I needed to get grace in that moment from the Lord because I was not acting in love and grace to her. I was acting in self-protection for myself and my reputation. So, before she had even kind of turned around to leave the room, I said, “You know what? Everybody, I want to stop for a second.”
“Can I have everybody’s attention?” I said, “I’m so sorry that I just said that. This is not about me—this life is not about me—it’s about the Lord. You are beautiful, and you are the image of God. I am so sorry that I said it the way that I said it and that I just did it in front of everyone. Will you forgive me?”
So, in front of everybody that I had been trying to impress, I had to—
Bob: Humble yourself.
Karis: —quickly humble myself and ask for forgiveness. But I would say that that is an example of what it can look like when you let grace define your relationships because God knows how to give us grace by His nature. But we—it is not our default mode—and it is not our natural bent.
Part of grace is a culture of forgiveness—so, after the fact—quickly—me asking for forgiveness—her quickly granting forgiveness—and everybody being witness to that. She said, “Hey, Mom, it’s not a big deal.”
And maybe, in the moment…it wasn’t a big deal in the moment, but I think those are the kinds of things that—the kind of pivotal points that when we handle them—mishandle them—it can have a lasting effect. It could have become a big deal for her later.
Dennis: There are two points I want to make out of your illustrations. First of all, as a parent, you need to be a recipient of grace, practicing—
Dennis: —confession with God and receiving His grace for your own sins, your own mistakes and errors. And sometimes, that means publicly.
Dennis: The second thing is—at that moment, the best thing would have been to have said nothing and then to have wrapped your arm around your daughter, maybe, later privately and said, “When we get home,”—
Dennis: —“I would like to have a little conversation.”
Dennis: “Let’s have a moment of wisdom here”—
Dennis: —“about what’s appropriate.”
Karis: And truly, it was on me because I—we just left the house. It was not really a conscious choice on either of our parts—but yes, it would have been better to say, “Hey, let’s talk when we get home.”
Bob: I know we want to talk about grace and discipline, but there are some listeners right now who are going—“I can’t even believe you freaked out over a midriff. I mean come on, Mom? I mean a bare midriff on”—how old is she—13?
Karis: She’s 14.
Bob: —“14, bare midriff—come on that can look cute for a girl? In fact if you’re so into grace, why don’t you just chill a little bit?”
Bob: Because they think—again—that grace means—
Karis: Grace means license—it means no rules—it means no standards. That can’t be what it means because that’s not how God treats us—our Lord is the source of grace. Grace is only a thing because God gives it to us.
Bob: As you defined grace—grace being giving someone something they desperately need, that they don’t—
Karis: But they don’t—right—they don’t necessarily deserve—yes.
Bob: As parents, that’s job one with our kids; isn’t it?
Karis: Yes, job one. Some of those things that they need but they don’t necessarily deserve are rules and standards, boundaries—understanding the appropriate.
The Lord does that for us.
The Bible is full of standards and His ideal for us knowing that we will not keep it—we will not be perfect—but He doesn’t remove those from us. Then, when we cross those boundaries, and we fall short of those standards, there are consequences for that.
Bob: And just as some people have misconceptions about what grace is, I think some people have misconceptions about what discipline is.
Bob: They think discipline is always punishment. What’s the difference between discipline and punishment?
Karis: They seem like synonyms. That’s how we use them in our language, as interchangeable. I’m careful in my book not to use the word punishment because when I really started to study, I discovered that punishment and discipline are actually opposites—they are actually antonyms. They have some things in common. So, we think they are the same thing.
For example, punishment is done to appease justice on the behalf of the victim—whoever was victimized.
Punishment is a thing that exists—it’s necessary—certainly, in our criminal justice system, it’s necessary—but discipline is actually done on behalf of the offender. It’s motivated by love for the person who did the thing—not by a desire to seek justice for the person who is offended.
Bob: So, given those differences, should we ever punish our kids?
Karis: We will mess up and punish our kids, but God doesn’t punish His kids. That was a big discovery in the process of writing this book. As I studied, I came to see that I really couldn’t find an example of God punishing His children. Now, that’s a key caveat—His children—those who are His, who are in Him, have been grafted in the kingdom of God as His sons and daughters—it doesn’t happen. He only disciplines them.
Bob: So, even when Achan hid stuff in the tent and they brought him out in front and they stoned everybody there, you’re saying, “That’s still loving discipline from a merciful God?”
Karis: Yes, and certainly, once you see Christ’s sacrifice on the cross—and that ultimate atonement made—it really was an axis on which we saw the kingdom of God come down on earth. The new law is grace. Once that atonement was made, that punishment was the last one.
Bob: I think there are a lot of circuits being blown in a lot of parents’ minds right now because you do stop and think—I mean every parent would say—if you asked the question, “Have you punished your kids, and did they deserved it?” Parents would say, “Yes,” and “Yes. As we think about this, God says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay,” when there have been transgressions. Our job as parents is not the punishing of our children, it’s the discipling—the disciplining—of our kids.
Dennis: It’s training. As you were talking, Karis, I couldn’t help but think about Hebrews, Chapter 12, where it talks about God disciplining His children. It says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.”
You go—it goes on through the passage there, through the next half dozen verses, and it talks about—all the way at the end—“For the moment all discipline seems painful, rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Back to what Bob was saying earlier, as you train your children, you are discipling them to know how to respond to life. You’re training them in how God would want you to live life His way.
Dennis: That doesn’t mean—at points—that they don’t bear the consequences—
Dennis: —of their wrong choices.
Karis: Right. Well, I think one of the reasons that we equate punishment and discipline—and think that they’re the same thing—is because they have some important things in common. One thing that punishment and discipline have in common is pain.
Karis: Both utilize pain as a tool.
Dennis: Yes. Let’s talk about something for a moment that you mention in your book. When you were a teenager, you kind of blew past the curfew. What happened?
Karis: Well, I was actually in college at the time—I think I was 19. I had spent some time living in the dorms, and I was back at home. My husband Mike and I were dating. I don’t think we were engaged yet, but we were pretty serious.
So, I had a curfew again—and I hadn’t really for a while because I had been off at college. The curfew was not so much my parents trying to be all lame-sauce and rain on my life.
It was just that I’m the oldest of four—and when I was 19, my youngest brother was nine, so we kind of had a spread of people living in the house. Not everybody could keep my collegiate schedule.
I had a midnight curfew. That afternoon—evening, I had gone over to Mike and his brother Pat’s house. They had a house together with like eight roommates, and we had decided to have a dominos tournament—played dominos and Mexican train until the wee hours of the morning. Somebody went on a Jack in the Box run and brought back some tacos, and we were just going for it.
I look up and realize it’s three o’clock in the morning. As soon as I realized, I was like—get in the car, come back home, parked in the driveway, very quietly closed the door, open the front door, climbed up the stairs, went to sleep, got up the next morning at 11:30 am; right?
Bob: The crack of noon.
Karis: The crack of noon—and came down stairs to have some cereal. My dad was sitting at the kitchen table with a very disheveled looking newspaper. I was kind of giving him the side-eye like—“I wonder if he’s going to ask me, and I wonder if he knows when I came home? I’m just going to quietly get my cereal bowl and see if I can be invisible.” He says, “Hey, Karis, just curious, what time did you get home last night?” I’m starting to sweat bullets.
Bob: And now, you’re faced with—“Do I lie, or do I tell the truth?”
Karis: Right. Well, so, here’s the crux of this story. I don’t know how long my dad thought about this before he did it or if it just came to him, but he said, “When did you come home last night? Before you answer that question, I just want you to be privy to some information that I have.” I said, “Okay?” [Laughter]
He said, “You parked on top of the paper.” I was like—“What?” “You parked on top of the newspaper.”
“Your driver’s side front tire was up on top of the paper. I had to go get your keys and move your car to bring the paper inside this morning. The front page is basically torn to shreds.” I said, “Okay;” and I knew where he was going with it; right?
He said, “Because I travel so much, hon, and I have to get up early in the morning to go to the airport sometimes, I happen to know that our paper comes at about 3:30 am in the morning—it gets dropped off.” So, he said, “Let me ask you again. What time did you get home last night?” I said, “3:15.” [Laughter]
Karis: Sorry, I got home at 3:30, and it comes at like 3:15. Anyway, the timeline worked out. I had come home right after it had gotten thrown into our driveway; but that’s an example—I think—of the difference between the mindset of punishment and the mindset of discipline. If I was an offender that had committed a crime and the police brought me in and they were interrogating me, they are not going to do what my dad did.
They’re not going to say, “We want to put all of our cards on the table so that you know everything that we know.” They’re going to see if they can push me into a corner and see what I’m going to do—see if I’ll lie—because as soon as I lie, they’re going to know I have something to hide, and they’re going to figure out what it is. It’s different with discipline because he wants to give me every opportunity to exit through the door labeled truth—and that’s always been how my parents have been.
In that moment, I knew, “I have no reason to lie. I’m just going to say exactly when I came home.” He asked me—“Well, why were you so late?” I said, “Well, we had a dominos tournament”—and it was so nerdy that he just had no reason to not believe me—and it was true. [Laughter]
So, I didn’t lie—but I think if he had not done what he did in that moment, I might have been tempted to say that I came home at a more acceptable late hour—like—“Oh, I got home at about one.”
Still broke curfew, but it wasn’t as late—it wasn’t embarrassingly late like it was; right?
Bob: Were there consequences for your actions?
Karis: That time, that’s where we left it—that time. You know, it made an impression on me.
So, discipline is a spectrum that we see with our kids. It was just like a clear—“Karis, you know that 3:30 in the morning is way past when you need to be coming home”—and I knew that the reason for that was not because they were trying to control me. I was 19. It was just—I’m part of a family—
Karis: —and I need to do my part to try to help the family run smoothly.
Bob: Your dad, in the moment—using wisdom—looks at the circumstances and makes a choice—“I’m not going to impose some kind of consequence for what you’ve done as a corrective measure.
I’m going to believe that this conversation has accomplished the corrective purpose.”
Bob: As parents, we face that moment—often—where we’ve got to decide, “Do I give consequences here? Do I let the moment be what it is?” And we’ve got to cry out to God and ask for His direction there.
Karis: His wisdom.
Dennis: You have to listen to Him and don’t make every crime—every boundary a big deal—like they’re a felon—
Dennis: —and they need to go to prison. Second thing I want parents to know—and you too, Karis, as a mom of two teenagers on the early side of the spectrum of teenage years—there’s a point where God in Heaven really feels sorry for parents. Just for a moment…He steps out of eternity into time and He enables parents to catch their kids red-handed.
Bob: With the car on top of the newspaper.
Dennis: With the car on top of the newspaper. I sat there reading that story, and I broke into the biggest grin. I’ll bet your dad, at that point—I’ll bet he was going—“Thank You, God, for that newspaper.”
Dennis: “So, we can make this a moment of training and not a conviction that results in life imprisonment.”
Bob: Well, here’s where it’s important for all of us as parents to reframe our own thinking about what we’re doing about discipling our children. That’s really what’s at the heart of the book, Grace Based Discipline. When we can think about discipline being the process of discipling—that’s different than just thinking about punishing your kids all day.
We’ve got copies of Karis’s book, Grace Based Discipline, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can go there to find out more about the book. Again, it’s called Grace Based Discipline.
Karis Kimmel Murray is the author. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. If it’s easier to call, our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
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You think about the dynamic that goes on in a lot of families—and the bad patterns of parenting that can develop with any of us—but for some of us, it’s because we grew up in situations where it’s how we were parented—it’s what we learned—it’s what we observed.
One of our objectives here at FamilyLife is to help husbands and wives—moms and dads—break generational cycles of relational dysfunction. If you grew up in a home where there was tension in the marriage constantly—or where parenting was not done appropriately, you’re going to carry some of that over into how you marriage and parent yourself.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about what you do as a parent when your kids are pushing your buttons. How can you be the grown up in that situation? We’ll talk more about that tomorrow with Karis Kimmel Murray. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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