“Do I have to?”
“I had to that yesterday.”
“I’m too tired.”
“That’s not fair.”
“I’ll do it later.”
“I don’t think so.”
These are all responses from children to a parent’s request for obedience. Not exactly encouraging responses! There is one commonality in all of these responses: a disdain for obedience. The children giving these answers have little regard for their parent’s authority. For these children, obedience is a curse and certainly not a blessing. One of the ways children come to this conclusion is because obedience has presented to them as a means to get a reward.
However, biblical obedience is not something used to gain a reward. Obedience is a response to God’s grace. Just as I cannot make myself more acceptable to God by my obedience, neither should I want my children to think that I will be more accepting of them because of their obedience. When children disobey, the solution should not simply be to better next time. The solution is to trust Christ for the strength to do what cannot be done in one’s own strength. Obedience is designed to show the radiant beauty of living life in a way that brings honor to God!
Training your children to be obedient is not about getting them to do what you want. It is about teaching them to honor God from their hearts. Biblical obedience acknowledges the weakness of the flesh and the absolute necessity of having a heart transformed by the power of the cross. Most importantly biblical obedience shines the light of God’s glory into everyday life. If you settle for something less as a parent, you have given your children a false understanding of biblical obedience, an understanding that lacks power and attraction.
Obedience that seeks to earn acceptance, favor or status is not genuine. Such “obedience” is self-serving. Neither is obedience appeasement. Appeasement can never bring satisfaction. Your child will always wonder if he has done enough to make things right.
True obedience results in joy. As sinners in need of the grace of God we know that we can do nothing to earn our standing with God. This is what you want to teach your kids about obedience!
Why obey? Biblically, obedience flows from a heart of love for God. This love is in response to the love of God. Worship is the only attitude of the human heart that is a fitting context for obedience. Your child cannot use obedience to plea bargain with God, to appease him, or to make himself worthy in God’s eyes.
Only the work of Christ can make things right with God. So obedience is simply a response of love and worship to God. With the psalmist your goal is to teach your kids to say and believe:
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.