I had a friend once who said that he did not always feel an obligation to explain his instructions to his children. “Sometimes, when they ask why I’ll tell them why. But I want them to obey promptly whether they understand my reasons or not. When a little kid is playing in the street and there’s a truck coming at him, there’s no time for an explanation. His daddy needs to tell him to get out of the street, and he needs to obey. Quick.”
The ultimate goal of teaching our children obedience is to develop hearts obedient to God. The family is the training ground for that. A habit of obedience is only dangerous when people are willing to obey authorities who demand disobedience to God. But an obedient heart and a perceptive heart are not at odds with each other. Obeying God will keep us from obeying the wrong human authorities.
So we pray and we work and we teach and we hope that our children will grow up with hearts of obedience so that one day, when they are adults and out of our home, and even when Mom and Dad are in heaven, they will have won the battle of the will and surrendered it sincerely to God.
And God may not always offer an explanation. Sometimes He just requires obedience. And obedience requires trust in His eternal love and good will for us. That’s why we tried to teach our kids to obey first, and then we would be happy to explain the “why” at the appropriate time. Usually, there was no reason to delay the explanation. But we wanted them to learn that obedience comes first. Someday they would have to obey God, not their parents.
“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Are we teaching our children to obey? And are we living in such a way that they trust us enough to do so, even when they don’t understand all the reasons?
(Hint: Take a look at our book, Kids of Character for some practical ideas on how to do this!)