"But why do I have to?" whined my daughter.
Exasperated because the conversation over doing her chores had been going on far too long, I resorted to my least favorite reply, "Because I said so."
We've all used that reason to explain to our kids why they need to do something. Usually we say it after we've given the real explanation. We're tired of debating the issue, and we're ready for the conversation to end and the child in question to do what they're told. Unfortunately, though, that statement leaves our kids with the impression that we're on a power trip and obedience is simply about the person with the least power doing what the person with the most power tells them to.
Our sermon yesterday was about obedience. It was about obeying God because we love him, not because we have to. That got me to thinking about how I treat obedience with my kids. It made me think about how I explain obedience to them. Because too often, I treat obedience as something I'm owed, something I deserve, simply because I'm the person in charge.
When I treat my kids' obedience as something that I'm owed, I teach my kids that obedience is more about the person in authority than it is about the attitude of their hearts. If I want my kids to truly understand obedience then I need to start talking about it as an outward show of love toward the authority giving the instruction.
We don't want our kids to obey our rules simply because they are rules and they are afraid of the consequences of disobedience. We want our kids to obey our rules out of love and respect for us. Because what our kids learn about obedience in our homes is what they will understand about obedience to God.
Jesus was clear that obedience is about love. John 14:15 says, "If you love me, keep my commands." Jesus wasn't interested in the rules for the sake of rules. He was interested in obedience as an act of love. If we want to emulate Jesus, then we should be interested in obedience as an act of love.
That doesn't mean that our kids can just obey us when they feel like it. It doesn't mean that we give up enforcing our rules. It simply means that we start talking differently about obedience. God tells our kids to obey their parents, and He tells us to obey Him. But we need to make sure our kids understand that obedience is an outward show of love both to us and to God. We need to make obedience less about us and more about our kids' hearts.
So, the next time I hear a whiny "But why do I have to?" my reply is not going to be "Because I said so." Instead, it's going to be "Because you love me."