Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tattoo Grace

In this clip Dr. Phil and a TV client get some good advice from tattoo artist Kat Von D

Sometimes Dr. Phil has a great turn of phrase. One of my favorites is

I used that one with kindergartners and university students, alike. I am not sure I made any kind of a difference, but it was fun to say.

Another one that works well for me to mentally recite before opening my mouth:


While Dr. Phil’s famous quips gain him high viewer ratings, and for all I know might be excellent therapy advice, they are most certainly lopsided theologically.

Dr. Phil is all about the law. It’s often smart law, but it is law, all the same.

The therapy we get from God includes both law and grace and that is infinitely more effective.

I really noticed this truth about grace in the clip. Dr. Phil is working with a teen, apparently engaged in some unsafe tattoo practices. He talks with her about being safe instead of being stupid. He does not seem to be getting anywhere with that line of reasoning so he asks Kat Von D to chime in.

Kat's response is completely different. She draws on her experiences as a teen and reminds the young girl that even though her mother sounds like a “mother” it’s is simply because she loves her. In a few sentences she has the young girl seeing her mother in a new light. I don’t know if the determination to get tattoos changed but she sure seemed more open to waiting until she was 18 and proceeding safely. It did not surprise me to find out Kat's parents are missionaries because she countered law with grace. And grace made all the difference.

It is a challenge to know when to apply law and when to apply grace. It is easy to assert that a confident sinner needs law and a contrite sinner needs grace, but we can’t see into the heart of an individual. This young girl seemed like a confident sinner rebelling by disobeying her mother. But, perhaps she was secretly condemning herself.

When I teach future teachers about classroom discipline I like to make the point that if a discipline technique is not working do not follow up with more of the same. If a punishment is not working it is not likely that a more severe punishment will work. Likewise, if a reward does not work, a larger one is not likely to be more effective.

Although, if United Airlines is willing  to pay thousands of dollars to get me off the plane that WILL work.

The bottom line is if rewards and punishments (both law, by the way) are not working you have to try something else. In the classroom that usually involves finding out what motivates the student. For example, if a student is motivated to avoid a behavior because of fear, than no amount of punishment or reward will change that. The fear needs to be addressed. For that, grace will make all the difference.

Romans chapter eight has much to say about what law can and cannot do:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8: 1-6

Law has its purpose in our lives. It brings us to our knees so we realize our need for forgiveness. It keeps us in check, and it gives the forgiven Christian a rightful path. But it does not have the power to change us. Only God’s grace can do that. Grace changes us from a condemned sinner to a Spirit filled child of God. Jesus conquered our rebellious disobedience when He gave His life on the cross. We still need the law, but we no longer walk under its condemnation. We walk in the peace of grace and forgiveness.

Not even Dr. Phil can top that.

Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.  How’s that workin' out for ya?