I want to thank Michelle for her thoughtful comment on the post, Heart of Obedience. Her comment is long so I will link to it here if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it. This type of interaction is greatly appreciated and encouraged.
The relationship between blessing and obedience is one that must be carefully defined. It is easy to miss the mark. Starting with the gospel places the issue in proper perspective. The gospel teaches that there is nothing I can do to make myself good enough to know the blessings of God. There is no way that I can earn any level of acceptance with God by my own merit. This is the key to making the gospel central in your parenting.
Michelle’s comment has to do with the motivation parents use to encourage children to be obedient. In this regard the Bible sets the bar high. Two familiar but foundational passages set the standard. The first is Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and the second is Ephesians 6:1-4:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise– “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
In both passages the directive is to go for the ultimate standard. The people of Israel, including parents, were to love God with all of their heart, soul and strength. The commandments of God were to be deeply embedded in the hearts of his people. Then, these words of God which were to be in their hearts were to be passionately given to children at every possible opportunity. Likewise, the apostle Paul pushes for the high calling of obedience that is centered on the very person of Jesus Christ. He encourages children to embrace their parents’ teaching, because their wellbeing in life depends upon honoring this teaching. And then Paul urges fathers that it is in the Lord’s instruction and training that they are to use to bring up their children.
In his excellent commentary on Ephesians, respected commentator Peter O’Brien offers these thoughts about the Lord’s instruction:
In contrast to the norms of the day, Paul wants Christian fathers to be gentle,
patient educators of their children, whose chief “weapon” is Christian
instruction focused on loyalty to Christ as Lord. Christian fathers were to be
different from those of their surrounding society.
This chief weapon that O’Brien speaks of is the power of the gospel presented to children from hearts overflowing with gratitude to God. This is the Lord’s instruction. It is not mere rote. It does not focus only on the outward behavior but has as its goal addressing the heart. Even the reward mentioned in verse 3 above focuses on the larger picture of knowing God’s blessings throughout life. In this sense, obedience is a response to the goodness of God. Obedience should never be presented as a way to earn favor or acceptance with God. It is clear from the two passages listed above that God is to be central in our thinking and in our training of our children. If God is to be central, then the idea of grace must also be central. Galatians and Hebrews both eloquently argue that the law does not save or make us acceptable. Rather, our God is a God of grace. His mercy and compassion mark his dealings with us(Psalm 103). It is this view of God that must dominate your parenting. God does not treat us as our sins deserve. This is a message that children, as well as parents, must hear as they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up.
There will more be more in response to Michelle’s comment in the next post. I pray that our parenting will be dominated by the power of the gospel. As always, let me know your thoughts.