Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that you require careful obedience from your children from the time they are very small. You emphasize first-time obedience and discipline for disobedience. You require your children to obey you both in private and in public, and you send them to a school that also emphasizes obedience. Yet, imagine that when your children turn 18 and leave home, they do so resenting you and immediately rebel against the standards of obedience you required of them as children.
It’s a terrible scenario, but one that is all too familiar. What’s missing?
The missing ingredient when children rebel is a heart that loves the standard. It’s not enough to require obedience from our children. Outward obedience is the essential baseline. Our children must indeed do what we require of them, in the way that we require them to do it – in other words, they must submit to our standard for them. God has granted us authority over our children. But mere obedience is not enough. Our children must obey because they love the standard, not merely because they are submitting to people who are bigger and smarter than they are.
Cultivating a love for the standard is how God the Father nurtures obedience in His children. In Deuteronomy 5 the Lord reiterated the Ten Commandments to His people. These were the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. He required His people to obey them (and He still does). But then in Deuteronomy 6:6, God said, “And these words I command you today shall be in your heart.” In other words, God was calling for Israel to love the standard, not merely to go through the motions of doing what He said. Psalm 119 is a chapter-long expression of the psalmist’s love for the standard of God’s Word. “I will delight myself in your commands, which I love.” The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.” “Oh how I love your law!” (vv. 47, 72, 97). God made commands, and then the psalmist internalized those commands and made them his own. They became his internal compass by which to navigate life.
What this means is that we must not only require visible obedience from our children, but we must go after their hearts. We must cultivate a heart of obedience in them by addressing the root issues of disobedience, by loving them with compassion and mercy, and by training them to internalize our commands. We must build the relationship and never do anything that tears down the tender ties of that relationship so that they will be drawn to us and the standards we are sharing with them. Together, we are all (adults and children alike) under the same ultimate standard – that of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength.
This is the model of obedience that we are striving after at Regents Academy. Teachers and administrators strive to love God’s standard in His Word, and then we share that standard with our students so that they will love the standard also. Together this is how we glorify God in our obedience.