Why Be Determined to Teach Children to Obey?

1384954600_483e7e4698_mTeaching children to obey is often a wearying task, for the components of obedience are many: wrestling with a little one’s will; uncovering little deceptions; administering encouragement and rewards — and occasional punishments.

These and a score of other challenges make raising children demanding. Thankfully, the years for instilling the ability to obey are also replete with good times and pleasant parent/child exchanges.

The lessons for instilling obedience require constant teaching, whether we do it by calculated instruction, or by quiet example.

The responsibility can wear parents out, and there are times when they could find it easy to say, “Enough!” and leave the rambunctious child to his or her own devices. But the task is too important for parents to allow themselves to quit or even take breaks. The wise parent must carry on in hope even when the task seems exhausting.

The reasons teaching obedience is important, even crucial, are more numerous than might appear. One could say we must teach obedience to have peace in the family, or to help the child develop a sense of boundaries. Both goals are worthy, but I mention a broader reason in my book, God’s House Rules.

The larger and lifelong goal is to prepare children to live wholesomely under a complex pattern of authorities that are sure to shape their environment wherever they are for an entire lifetime. I write:

Imagine a husband and his wife with two children living in an apartment building. On the one hand, the parents exercise authority over the children. But at the same time, the parents are under the authority of the building manager and the building’s rules.

When that mother drives to her job in the morning she respects the authority of highway ordinances. The policeman in a cruiser tucked behind a bridge abutment is there for a reason.

Then at her work as a department manager, she oversees the work of her team; but at the same time she is under the authority of the superintendent of the plant. The multiple authority structures we all live under are many and require balance.

Isn’t it true that if children learn obedience at home they will function better in their childhood world – school, summer camp, Sunday School class, scouting programs, baseball leagues – not to mention how they will do later as adults?

In passing, I note that focussing on the Apostle Paul’s one word of counsel (Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right (Ephesians 6:1) leaves room for lots of play, pleasant exchanges, and fun-filled surprises in the home. In fact, fun experiences are even more likely when there is good order.

Some secular voices might counter that “obedience” is old-fashioned and overrated: after all, they say, children need to be free to be creative, to experiment and to test their wings. The two ideas of obedience and self-actualization are not mutually-exclusive, but creativity and experimentation need some degree of supervision.

Obedience goes to the heart of the matter, and if obedience is not viewed as fundamental other less wholesome styles of relating — chaotic or combative or competitive — will battle for dominance and prevail.

Above all, Christian parents understand that they are accountable to God for the task. And they know they are equipped by Him for the stewardship of parenting. They also know there are rewards to children when they are helped to live ordered lives (Exodus 20:12). God makes his promises.

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Photo credit: woodleywonderworks (via flickr.com)

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One thought on “Why Be Determined to Teach Children to Obey?

  1. When I first opened ‘God’s House Rules’ it struck me that here was a book providing guidance for modern Christian families to live together in peace and harmony according to Gods will.I recalled a book written almost 1500 years ago , for a different kind of family.

    Just as ‘God’s House Rules ‘ is a practical guide for modern Christian families,so an earlier classic I have in mind , guided Christians how to live together in harmony and mutual respect in another kind of family – a monastic religious community of brother monks or sister nuns.To both kinds of family,mutual obedience is essential.

    In about 540 AD ,Benedict of Nursia,venerated as St Benedict in the Orhodox, Catholic,Anglican and Lutheran churches,wrote his classic guide on how to live together as Christians.The book was called ‘The Rule of Benedict.

    At the start of his chapter on obedience Benedict writes

    ‘’The first step towards humility is unhesitating obedience ,which comes naturally to all who hold Christ dearer than anything else’’

    For Benedict ,in his Rule:

    ‘’The third step towards humility is to submit yourself to your superior with complete obedience out of love for God ,imitating the Lord of whom the Apostle says ‘’He was made obedient even to the point of death’’ Phil 2:8

    Just so ,in ‘God’s House Rules,the author also draws closely on the Apostle Paul’s words.

    Benedict’s 4th step to humility is obedience even where unjust treatment is encountered., meek obedience as ‘’lambs for the slaughter’’ Benedict says, recalling Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans 8:36.I’m uncomfortable with Benedict’s 4th step,which seems to come from a more brutal past world.Yet accounts of Benedict suggest he was a kind loving Christian leader.Perhaps I misunderstand step 4.

    In ‘God’s House Rules’ an important caution is provided.On the radio a wife rang in to ask whast she should do as her husband was hitting her.The shocking answer given was just smile and thank Jesus.’God’s House Rules ‘ rightly points how wrong was this advice. , that a marriage is not a concentration camp and submission does NOT mean submit to abusive treatment.Family members should be loved not abused.

    God wills our ascent by humility,loving and mutual humility.

    .Jacob’s ladder ,the stairway to Heaven,as I understand it ,is Jesus Himself.Through Christ,our mediator,a perpetual intercourse is now opened between Heaven and earth.

    Benedict saw Jacob’s Ladder in yet another way.By self exaltation we ascend it and by humility ascend it,according to Benedict.For Benedict our body and soul form the sides of the ladder and Divine calling fixes the rungs of humility,discipline and obedience by which God raises us to Heaven.

    Similarly the good loving parent can raise children to Christian adulthood.

    In Benedict’s Rule,when all the rungs of obedience on the ladder have been climbed we are obedient no longer out of fear, but out of love for Christ and delight in virtue.

    While Benedict insists obedience is essential for raising children ( presumably he means within a monastery) ,children, he says,should always be treated with loving consideration for their youth.

    For Benedict it is through walking along the path of mutual obedience or climbing the ladder of mutual obedience ,in love for God and love and concern for others ,that we reach God.

    In March 2014 ,on Vatican Radio,Pope Francis gave what our Catolic brothers and sisters call a homily,in which he talked of the Christian path of humility through loving obedience.

    ‘’ He[The prophet Elisha} asked him [Nahum} to obey like a child’’ Pope Francis 2014

    But Naaman went off in a rage til his servants convinced him to obey. The act of humility & obedience,healed him.The Pope said

    ‘’This is the message for today in this third week in Lent : if we want to be healed we must choose the road of humility’’

    Last week ,using the new technology of twitter, just as Pastor Bastian uses the new technology of the blog,Pope Francis tweeted

    ‘’Humility saves man.Pride makes him lose his way.’’

    Just like our Catholic fellow Christians ,we evangelical Protestants follow Christ’s command in the Bible: to be saved through humility by loving obedience.

    Humility,obedience,harmony and love are all closely interlinked.Many secular voices disparage obedience .Not so our Christian Bible.

    When one is young,particularly in adolescence, it’s tempting to see obedience as the enemy of freedom .In fact obedience and humility are the very gateway to freedom.Humility sets us free from the chains imposed by our egos.

    As Pastor Donald says,in ‘God’s House Rules’, submissiveness is not in our genes.We have a tendency to resist it and resist obedience.By nature maybe we are rebellious,especially children and adolescents.But submission and obedience are fundamental house rules for stress free harmonious happy families.

    Drawing on what Christ’s Apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches, and drawing on careful discussion with his supportive wife Kathleen . while driving across New York,Pastor Bastian & Kathleen ,formulated 4 essential non negotiables when rearing children.To each obedience is essential.These are detailed in chapter 5 of ‘God’s House Rules’,the chapter on what God says to children. ( and their parents).

    These 4 non negotiables are Respect,Honesty,Obedience and Accountability. In a wonderful and memorable phrse in ‘God’s House Rules’,it is said

    ‘’Christ calls us to enthrone him in our families’’

    Jesus Christ enthroned at the centre of every family is an uplifting image.

    It is every Christian couiple’s duty to pass on God’s scriptural commandments to their children,and the basis of all these commandments are the two great laws of Jesus which should be introduced to the centre every child’s heart, to enable every child to grow up toward our Lord.

    “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,'” he replied, “‘with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole strength, and thy whole mind; and thy fellow man as much as thyself.’’Luke 10:27 Weymouth New Testament

    ..Love is the foundation of Respect,Honesty ,Obedience and Accountability,to be passed on down the generations.

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