Living with small children is a spiritual discipline. Although some ascetics believe in isolating oneself from the distractions of life, I find that it is in my most ordinary tasks that God’s word comes alive. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” If my heart is pure I can see the Lord in my laundry, my children, my dishes as well as in any mountain retreat. Child-rearing is a veritable vision of God!
Our first child was deceptive-she deceived me into thinking parenting was easy. She is bright, mature, quiet, and docile. She is rarely overtly rebellious. She’s the kid that makes other people go, “What’s your secret?” She’s the kid that makes you start to believe you really are a great parent.
Seven peaceful years later her sister was born. The day she was born she refused to cry, terrifying me. Every day since then she has proved that I have no idea what I’m doing. She’s the kid that is so stinkin’ cute that if you frown in her direction, random grandmothers will stop in the street to give you lectures. She’s the kid who once painted pumpkin on a white washed wall.
We’ve gone to drastic measures at times to instill some discipline in her. It often involves long stretches sitting on a red stool near where mom’s working, or solid spankings, orcreative consequences, and prayer, lots of prayer. The other day when she was deliberately disobeying me again, I got a glimpse of grace. Because I’ve been teaching a Bible class on 1 John, I’ve been soaking in it. Shaking my head over yet another act of defiance, this passage stood out.
“The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:4-6, NASB)
That’s a little tricky. Let me try it in my own words. If I claim to know God and don’t bother to obey, I’m a big fat liar. If I love God, I’ll obey him. If I love and obey him, that’ll look like following Jesus. Did I get that right?
There’s a real connection between love and obedience, but it’s not the one that often comes to mind. Take my little girl, no matter what she does, I love her. That pumpkin thing? It made me crazy. Did it stop my loving her? No of course not. Could she somehow “disobey herself” outside of my love? Ludicrous.
God doesn’t stop loving me because I’m disobedient either. He didn’t start loving me because I was obedient. Rather he was concocting the wild scheme that sacrificed his own innocent Son to ransom me while I was his enemy (Romans 5:10). I didn’t cause him to love me by being good and I can’t cause him to stop by being bad.
So what’s the connection between love and obedience?
Let my kids serve as an example again. My wee one is four. She revels in the love she receives. She’s a stellar snuggler. In her bunny pajamas, smelling good from a bath she may be the most lovely creature on earth. But she has no consciousness of the pain her disobedience causes others. She has not connected loving mom and obeying mom in her mind. She’s four-by definition willful, self-centered, and capricious. Any obedience I get from her is based on self-interest or fear.
At eleven, my eldest obeys from a mixed bag of love and fear. Disobedience brings punishment to be sure but it also brings disappointment and hurt to her parents. What hurts us, hurts her too because she loves us.
I’m thirty-five years old. I obey my mom too. I listen when she talks and generally do what she asks. She graciously does not use this super power too often. I have no fear. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I just love her. So I do what she says. Simple as that.
The grace of God is that he loved me before I ever obeyed him. He sent his son to die for people who would cast that gift back in his teeth. We can never make him love us more by working harder. On the other hand, my love is directly related to my obedience. I can’t bear the thought that my sin adds to my Savior’s suffering. Or that my Heavenly Father’s eyes show his hurt and disappointment when I disobey. I obey God because I love him. I obey him because of his immense love for me made plain in his Son (1 John 4:9). Never so that he will love me.Guest Author: Helene Helene is one of the maids at maidservantsofchrist.com. A blog written by 3 friends, Helene, Melissa and Jane. Helene lives abroad with her husband and two young daughters. A graduate from Harding University, she’s a college-level ESL teacher. Please Note: Photographs are representative of family in general and are not photo’s of the author and/or her children.