So this semester's class is on parenting, which may not sound very relevant. But the cool thing about his material is that it's all based on the gospel, which, as he says, "is for every demographic." In other words, people taking a parenting class can learn about their marriages, people taking a marriage class can learn about their friendships, etc. So I'm taking a parenting class and I'm learning about my Christian high school.
Tripp says that if we parent in such a way that our goal is to get kids to behave right, we create monsters. Ok I paraphrased there a little, but I'll explain the point. People are relational beings. We don't operate most fully when we detach ourselves from relationship...but that's what we do when we teach rules out of context! So if I try to teach MaKayla that she's "supposed to" share because "it's nice", that's all well and good but it has nothing to do with God. It's just this morally abstract restraint that I've put on her that actually makes her life very inconvenient. Then say that I throw in "God wants us to do nice things" every now and then, all I've done is teach her that God is the one making her life inconvenient, but that He'll like her if she keeps the rules.
This kind of moralistic teaching creates two natural reactions: 1) people who decide the rules are annoying and reject them (openly or secretly), and 2) people who get so good at following the rules that they become self-righteous. Well, that pretty much explains my Christian high school experience. Some kids were honest about their lack of respect for the rules and decided to live how they wanted to. Some kids still wanted the intoxicating approval of parents and teachers based on "doing the right things" so they "pretended" so well that teachers and parents were fooled. And some kids actually liked obeying the rules, and were so good that they kept them all and were able to look down their noses at the ones who didn't.
Here's the problem with this. None of these kids know what to do with the gospel. The kids that don't care about God's law aren't concerned with the fact that they've broken it. For all they care, God's law can go to you-know-where. What does it have to do with them? They don't see that it's connected to a relationship we all have with God whether we know it or not. The kids in the middle aren't really concerned with God to begin with; they're after approval. And as long as they're getting it, as long as they can keep up the game, why not have fun on the weekend? They're not aware that God and His approval are actually much more than a teacher at school calling us "nice kids". And the kids following all the rules are so proud of themselves that they don't think they need grace. They think they're God's VIPs, and pray that God would help others "get with it." They're not aware that they need God's rescue as much as the kid in detention.
The gospel, in fact, speaks to this. It gives us the realization that God's law does in fact matter because we're bound to it. We were created in His image and into an intimate, covenantal relationship with Him. God is God, and we're either submitting or rebelling in relationship with Him. We can't choose to say, "this doesn't apply to me" because it's not an abstract moral system. It's who we are and how the universe works. It shows us that no amount of game playing can work with God because He's not impressed with our superficial attempts to keep Him pacified. He's not a clueless teacher or parent who is happy just because we're making good grades and staying out of jail or not getting pregnant. And the gospel shows us that we are all in desperate need of grace because following the rules perfectly isn't enough. It's the self-righteous, self-saving, prideful idolatry of our hearts that we need rescue from, not detention or skirts that are too short!
I can relate to those high school kids because I was one of them. The gospel is helping me. I'm learning that His laws for me aren't abstract moral restraints administered to make my life inconvenient, and that He doesn't "like me" more when I keep the rules or shame me when I mess up. Maybe you know a Christian like I described above and it upsets you because it reveals our hypocrisy. Or maybe you are one of the Christians I described and you feel tired of keeping up the game. Either way, remember that Christians need the gospel too. Let the gospel help you.