Every year my siblings and I would ask my dad what he wanted for his birthday, and every year he would answer, “Obedience.” Then he would smile, his blue eyes twinkling, and we would laugh. We always tried to get another answer out of him, but the response was always the same: Obedience. We understood that he was sincere because my parents intentionally taught us and showed us this vital principle. They submitted themselves to God and trained us to do the same.
Evidence of a surrendered life is always obedience. -Rick Warren
Why is “obedience” a dirty word?
Obedience is almost a dirty word in many parenting circles today. Parents don’t want to raise their children to thoughtlessly submit to just any authority. I can understand the caution and agree that blind submission can be dangerous. We’ve seen how power can be abused, and now the pendulum is swinging toward the other direction. Unfortunately, this leaves children without the boundaries they need to develop emotionally and spiritually.
Although I acknowledge that requiring obedience with selfish motives will never result in a positive outcome, this isn’t a reason to throw out the concept altogether. Making choices based on fear will never provide a firm foundation for teaching our children how to navigate the world successfully as adults. We must base our parenting decisions on God’s Word and discernment from the Holy Spirit.
Why Teach Obedience?
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESV)
Teaching obedience from a Biblical perspective is all about the heart. Our disobedience often traces to deeper issues of pride, stubbornness, a lack of teachability or countless other problems that go straight to our core. When teaching our children we must address more than outward obedience. Our ultimate goal is to train our kids to value a heart change that results in obedience to their Savior.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 (ESV)
What Obedience ISN’T!
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)
Lack of Compassion
Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. Psalm 103:13 (NASB)
What Our Kids Need
Parenting is not for the faint of heart! It doesn’t come easily to be consistent, patient or compassionate. And even though I fail my children, I’m not a failure. I keep trying, and when I make a mistake I own up to it. What our kids need most of all is our willingness to be obedient to God. Our actions will speak louder than our words.
Tucking Emily into bed last night, we enjoyed some girl talk and laughed about everything and nothing. That one simple act of time and attention is building relationship. It’s not always convenient but it is always worth it. Isn’t it a lot easier to honor someone that you have a relationship with? Isn’t it a lot easier to obey someone you trust?
What our kids need is us—our unconditional love, our eyes looking into theirs, day upon day as we teach, entreat and instruct. Obedience is not a dirty word; it’s just a part of the bigger picture of intentional parenting.
A Prayer for Our Children:
“Lord, win our children’s hearts. Teach them to follow you all the days of their lives. Give them hearts of compassion, kindness and love. May they grow into men and women who lead their families to honor you—being your ambassadors to a world in need. Amen.”
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