My son is turning four in two weeks, which is absolutely mind-boggling to me. Like most almost-four-year-old boys, he’s not a huge fan of obeying. That’s not to say that he’s a “bad boy” who’s a terror, but let’s just say he’s not the meek-and-mild type. He’s great, I love him to death, and look at him at least half a dozen times a day and simply think, “I love that boy so much!”
Lately he’s been teaching me a lot about obedience: his obedience… and mine. My wife and I feel like we’re constantly having this conversation with him:
Me: “Hey, stop stealing your sister’s toys. You need to share.”
Me: “Did you hear me?”
Me: “Come here, we need to talk.”
Me: “I said come here”
Son: “I love you daddy”
Me: “I love you too buddy, and because you love me you should obey me and mommy.”
We proceed to have this conversation a few times a day. Now, I’m not throwing my son under the bus… afterall, he’s an almost-four-year-old boy… I’m really throwing myself under the bus, because how often does the Holy Spirit have this same exact conversation with me?!
My wife and I are really careful to make sure that we don’t use God as our disciplinarian who is constantly looking out to see if our kids are naughty or nice. Too often, Christian parents fall into the trap of using the Bible as a book of morality (Be nice, Help other, Obey mom and dad) and less as a book where God has revealed Himself to us (God made you, You sin – yes, we teach our son that he sins and use the word “sin” – but God loves you SOOOO much that he became a man named Jesus so he could forgive your sins and live inside you). If you’re looking for a good Bible to read with your kids at night, I recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible, the words are sometimes more geared towards older kids and the stories can be a bit lengthy at time, but I very highly recommend for anyone, not just children! What I love so much about the JSB is how it captures the Bible story as so much more than a story to tell you to be nice, it makes that connection while demonstrating how the entire Bible is all about Jesus.
God definitely does care about what we do and whether or not we’re “good people.” But to always use God as a divine disciplinarian and as the one who demands us to be nice and to share our toys is to simply make God into a rule-giver. Sure, God gives rules… but He’s so much more than a rule giver, isn’t He?
The last few days have been filled with reminders that obedience flows from love. As I discipline my son for not obeying, it’s a reminder that loving dads discipline out of love while loving sons obey out of love. There’s a very simple, yet profound, lesson to be learned here.
Obedience flows from love. When I grow impatient with my son, how can I not feel convicted of my own hypocrisy: demanding of him what I don’t give to God, my Heavenly Father, who deserves so much more honor and respect and obedience than I deserve from my kids?
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.'” (John 14:23-24)