Parenting: Obedience Beyond Parenting
Obedience is not about “Do this or else” but an offer to “please stay close and safe”.
I was struck recently by something that maybe should be a given, but I don’t think it really is in our culture. The issue that spoke to me was that of obedience; obedience specifically as it relates to God and my relationship with Him.
I think that most of us see obedience as something that involves punishment. Thoughts and phrases like “If you obey me then I will love you” or “if you love me, you will obey me” or “if you obey, you will be blessed” which leads to other thoughts like “if I disobey I will lose out or be punished.” These concepts aren’t totally wrong, in fact they tend to line up pretty clearly with the Old Testament, considering the numerous times Israel was “judged” for their disobedience.
Even as parents we may take this posture with our kids. “Do this or else” is a common response from many of us, especially in moments of frustration on our part or disrespect and disregard from our kids.
This is a problem when it comes to our understanding of God though, with this mentality, the only reason we have to obey is to avoid punishment, which really puts us at odds with the concept of love, doesn’t it?
We fight our sin in a desperate attempt to avoid losing something, or gaining punishment. Doing this makes us look at verses like this one as threats:
John 15:9-10 (NIV)
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
It can come across like, “IF you do what I’ve asked then I will love you” but that isn’t what it says.
In reality though, it actually says something entirely different from a threat.
Allow me to illustrate; if my son wants to run across a busy street I tell him no because I know that he is likely to get hurt if he does. So I tell him not to, and depending on his age I might tell him why. I ask him to stay on the sidewalk with me, and to hold my hand. If he stays WITH me and listens to what I’ve asked, he is: in my presence, close to me, safe and accepting the love I am offering through my instructions – essentially “remaining in my love.”
You see, he has the opportunity to realize that my instructions, boundaries and even commands are expressions of love, and opportunities for him to trust me and stay in my presence and admit and accept that I love him. This makes the act of obeying shift drastically because it isn’t me telling him something in an attempt to take away his fun, but for the purpose of protecting and loving him.
What brought this to mind was the fact that I was finding moments in my day and life where I felt specifically led to do something by God, things that were uncomfortable and I wouldn’t have normally done. When I did them I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy. This is NOT what someone who is having good things withheld from them would feel, but instead is something that someone feels when they know they have heard and listened to and chosen to walk closely with someone that loves them and wants only the best for them.
To simply know this and preaching that God’s word is a loving instruction manual for the best life He has created me for doesn’t do justice to actually living life with an all powerful and loving God.
My son finds joy in being close to me, holding my hand and knowing that he has NOTHING to worry about and that nothing can hurt him if he is with me. He lets go of his desires to run across the street, not because it doesn’t look fun or tempting anymore but because being close to me is so much better!
There is joy beyond words when we are close to God and trusting His direction and protection, and something beautiful to the idea that, in obedience, we are close enough to hear God’s gentle whisper of comfort and love. (1 Kings 12:11-13)
This is what remaining in God’s love is – and it changes EVERYTHING!
We don’t obey because of consequences/punishment or even because there is a carrot hanging in front of us that we hope to get if we listen well enough, we obey because it’s an opportunity to trust and let God make the decisions we don’t need to make, it’s a chance to be close and to find something SO much better than the plastic and temporary pleasures of the world.
Obedience isn’t about “do this or else” it’s about “please stay with me – it’s better here” and to let go of the worries of this world and experience joy beyond our wildest dreams.
May your understanding of obedience be changed forever and may you find and embrace the AWESOME joy that comes with being close to your Father and trusting that He knows best.
© David McVety – December 2017
David McVety is the Assistant Director of Doing Family Right.
To learn more about David McVety, visit David’s blog: www.DavidMcVety.com
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Feature Image used with permission by David McVety (AdobeStock_141046939)