One of the first Biblical accounts our kids learn at church is the account of Moses and the Ten Commandments. It's an easy story for young kids to visualize. A guy goes up on a mountain and comes back with 10 rules written on two stone tablets. Even the youngest child can picture that in his head.
Yet, too often, our kids get stuck on the "rules." They get the impression that God is simply a God with a list of rules to follow. Don't lie, don't steal. Obey your parents. Be kind to others.
There's nothing wrong with any of those commands. God says to do those things and many others, but it seems that a lot of the time, our kids miss out on understanding why they're supposed to follow God's commands. God becomes a God of rules to them instead of a God of grace. Many kids see God as a big policeman in the sky waiting for them to do something wrong so He can write them a figurative ticket.
That's not how we want our kids to see God because a faith that is based on following the "rules" is a faith that will falter. None of us can keep all of God's commands all the time. If we could, there would have been no need for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Our kids need to know that God cares about their behavior, their choices and their words because they are a reflection of who He is. We can't earn our way into heaven by doing the right things. We can only live abundantly here on earth and have eternal life in heaven if we choose to accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, believe in His resurrection and follow Him.
When we choose to follow Jesus, we're saying that God's way is better than our own. We're saying that God's commands are important. We're saying that we want others to see Jesus in us. John 13:35 says, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Our love for each other, which we show by our actions is an indication of our love for God. When others see us putting the interests of others before our own, when they see us speaking with kind words when we could choose harsh ones, when they see us feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, they see a reflection of who God is.
God doesn't need us to follow His "rules" so that we can spend eternity with Him. He bridged that gap with Jesus' sacrifice. He wants us to obey His commands so that we can draw other people to Him, so that they, too, can spend eternity with Him.
Instead of focusing only on God's commands with your kids, focus on the reasons for following those commands. Help your kids understand that their words and actions are a reflection of God to the people around them.