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Our most indulgent Parent

August 6, 2007

I read this phrase in a Calvin quote today that I have to share with you.  It’s in Book III, chapter 19 of the Institutes, “Of Christian liberty”.  Christian liberty, it seems to him, consists of three parts.

1) Your conscience must rise above the law and think no more of obtaining justification by it.

2)  Now that you are free from the yoke of the law, you voluntarily obey the will of God.

3) The free use of things indifferent.

The quote of the day comes from the second section.  He is explaining why it is that we who are now free from the law are more willing and eager to obey God than we were under the law.   When we were under the law, we were under a curse.  No matter how much effort we poured into our obedience, we always fell short of the demands of the law and merited condemnation.  So, Calvin asks…

“How can unhappy souls set themselves with alacrity to a work from which they cannot hope to gain anything in return but cursing?  On the other hand, if freed from this severe exaction, or rather from the whole rigour of the law, they hear themselves invited by God with paternal lenity, they will cheerfully and alertly obey the call, and follow his guidance.  In one word, those who are bound by the yoke of the law are like servants who have certain tasks daily assigned them by their masters.  Such servants…dare not come into the presence of their masters until the exact amount of labor has been performed.  But sons who are treated in a more candid and liberal manner by their parents, hesitate not to offer them works that are only begun or half finished, or even with something faulty in them, trusting that their obedience and readiness of mind will be accepted, although the performance be less exact than was wished.  Such should be our feelings, as we certainly trust that our most indulgent Parent will approve our services, however small they may be and however rude and imperfect.  Thus He declares to us by the prophet, “I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:17).

Who of you if your little child draws you a tree will look at it and say, “You call this a tree?!  This looks nothing like a tree!  This is a poor excuse for a tree!”  If you then being evil, know how to show mercy and compassion and kindness to your children, will not your Father in heaven much more receive your good works, however imperfect and defiled they may be?  O we of little faith!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2007 8:41 am

    I thought maybe the reason there were no comments here was because the quote was in need of a good Gorfchild paraphrase. But then I discovered the comment link was broken for some unknown reason. So I’ve reposted this.

  2. September 8, 2007 8:35 pm

    It is so good to be reminded over and over again that God is truly an indulgent parent. I keep forgetting I am post-cross in my relationship with him.

    I see the daily failures, and get discouraged, and then want to hide myself from his presence, afraid to see the disappointment on his beautiful face.

    But this evening, your use of the word “indulgent” had really helped me remember that he rejoices over my attempts at good works. ENFPs have difficulty finishing what we start. I am so thankful he hangs my half drawn tree up on his holy fridge and tells me that I got the twist and angle of that scrawny branch jutting out to the left just right.

    You know, I bet in the New Jerusalem, artists will be able to make pictures of a tree that have texture, smell, and light in the actual work of art. Sound too. Wouldn’t that be cool? Paint a bird, and then hear it chir-chirrup in the dewy morning haze? As cool as that would be, the atistic media available to us will probably be even better than that.

    Thanks for the reminder of our true God and the blessings of the coming inheritance.


  3. September 8, 2007 8:37 pm

    This also challenges my own parenting in the Spirit. I want ot be as indulgent as my Father is. Maybe tomorrow I will draw a few sketches of indulgence, and see how they turn out.

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