My husband Tim often tells the story of his mother sending him and his brother outside with sacks to pick up the trash and debris in their yard. They would pick up some and then head inside. His mother would take a look and send them back out. This would happen several times until the yard would finally be completely picked up.
It seems it would’ve been smarter to just go ahead and pick it all up the first time! It certainly would’ve taken less time!
I don’t know why, but it seems to be a human failing to want to do as little as possible (of the things we don’t want to do)—as little as we can get by with.
But that’s really not obeying, is it? So obedience needs to be done completely.
I think teaching obedience includes for the parent both the practical (requiring obedience) and the spiritual (instilling a desire to be obedient). We must require obedience because we are responsible to train our children and to prepare them for life, but we must also gain their hearts so that they want to obey.
My dad used to tell me and my siblings that his job was to prepare us to live without him. I think that is truly the parent’s job, and in God’s economy that job includes teaching them to understand that they are accountable to God. I also desire to see them want to obey Him.
I was watching my 19-month-old grandson the other day. He really enjoys being given a task, such as carrying an item to another person. Then he receives much praise and encouragement. He likes to please those who love him.
I think that’s a key to all of the aspects of obedience we’ve discussed. God wants us to obey Him, not just because He tells us to, but even more so because He loves us. Because He loves us, we love Him (1 John 4:19), and we should want to please Him.
I remember once when dealing with one of my noncompliant children, it struck me that she didn’t care whether she obeyed or not. I realized that I needed to spend more positive time with her so that she would want to please me by obeying.
It grieves God when we disobey. It grieves parents when their children disobey. (True, sometimes it makes us mad, but I’m convinced that we only get angry or frustrated when our children disobey because they are not meeting our expectations. God, however, is always aware of our sinfulness and knows exactly what to expect of us. 😛 )
I think it’s good not only to discipline but also to let your children see you grieve over their sin. They need to understand that their sin grieves you and it grieves God. If you love someone, it should hurt to let him/her down, and that hurt helps you grieve over your own sin. This is called repentance, and it is a first step toward a change of behavior.