There’s something to be said about obedience. I’m not sure what, exactly, I’m supposed to say, but the ghost of a post has been following me around lately, poking me slightly and asking to be written.
There is some relationship between obedience and love and faith that I can’t quite put my finger on. Romans 1:5, 2 Corinthians 9:13, and 2 John 1:6 all reference the way that we become obedience when we follow Christ. A potentially causal relationship, but not exclusive. What I’m seeing is this: As Christians, we obey the commands of God (to the best that we understand them and have courage for anyway) because we trust Him. We have faith in Him to be asking the right things of us, so we do the things He asks.
I don’t expect my three year old to obey me blindly. At this point I like to believe I’ve given her ample evidence to trust me, but I’m not teaching her to suspend her critical thinking skills in the presence of authority. I want her to learn the nature of obedience – that she assesses previous behavior from someone and decides whether or not they are trustworthy and deserving of her obedience. I want her to learn to decide what is right, whether that be compliance or defiance in any given situation, and to have the courage to do what needs to be done. Her obedience will not always be popular and her defiance will not always be without consequence. Both require her strength. Breaking her will for my own ease and laziness does not build her strength. And it certainly does not build up strength in the body of Christ.
Obedience is the application of one’s will to the wishes of another. Obedience is choosing to comply. You cannot be obedient if you have no will. You cannot be obedient if you have no choice. If I go to church because my livelihood depends on it, I’m not obeying God. I’m not choosing to worship God because of my faith or my relationship with God. I’d be choosing to go out of self-preservation, not obedience. Which makes going to church the wrong thing.
This is one of my major qualms with spanking. “Do it or I’ll spank you” and “Don’t do it or I’ll spank you” only teach selfishness and self preservation. They only teach our kids to look out for themselves. They don’t teach our children the WHY behind our requests, and they don’t teach our children how to choose obedience out of faith or trust or love.
I hear people complaining that we’re a post-Christian nation, but it seems like many of us were raised to be that way. We were raised to do what we were told lest we be hit – we never learned to do what was right because it was right. Or to do what was right because it was asked of us by someone we trusted and loved. Is it any wonder that teaching us to think only about ourselves taught us to be selfish? Is it any wonder that teaching us to look at the consequences instead of the motives produced lazy people? I’ve heard “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about the government” but I want to add this: “If you teach selfishness and laziness to your children, you don’t get to complain when they act that way as adults.”
Where has this gotten me? If I make a request of my three year old, she will either obey or not. If she doesn’t do what I ask, she will nearly always engage me in a discussion about the request. She’s three, so we’re working on tact and word choice, but mostly she’s kind and thoughtful and insightful. Sometimes she needs to know why I’m asking and she needs to know why the other choices don’t work. She thinks about what I’m asking and she thinks about the situation. She has on occasion come up with a better solution than the one my husband or I initially suggested. She has offered compromises that we might or might not take her up on. She’s learning how to make decisions, and she’s learning how to see her role in the world. (She also sometimes flat out refuses because she’s tired or hungry or attempting to establish her independence. She’s three. Three year olds do that sometimes.)
I have no doubt that this path is less convenient. I have no doubt that requiring first time obedience is easier on the parent. But it hasn’t done much for society, it hasn’t done much for women, it hasn’t done much for the individual, and it hasn’t done much for the church. It’s not worth the cost for me. I’ll take the hard road, because it’s the right road.
Because luckily, I was able to restore my will and reclaim it after my childhood.