Obedience and Trust

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Matthew 5:34-37   But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these comes from the evil one” (MEV).

James 5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation. (RSV)

Last week I began to share some thoughts on obedience in family Life. I gave examples of how we might understand obedience in a more negative light. Obedience is a virtue that needs to be formed in us over time. What are some things that could be done in family life that would enable obedience to become a virtue that leads us into the Kingdom?

Last week I quoted Ephesians 6:1-4, which ends with this verse, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We often speak of children needing to obey their parents, but do we ever spend time addressing this verse? How might parents provoke their children to anger resulting in rebellion? Or what if they obey but it comes with resentment and anger? Are the expectations for obedience realistic? Are parents expecting something from their children that they cannot give? Children are told to be obedient, but are parents modeling the very behavior that their children are expected to discontinue? The worst example I can give is a parent who physically disciplines a child for physically striking out at his or her sibling; or a parent who in the evening screams at his or her child to be quiet, settle down, and go to sleep? Parents are not to model the very behavior kids are told to stop. If that is the case, then at least they should likewise be examples of repentance and ask of the child forgiveness for providing a poor example. This is where emotions play a funny place in parenting. We should not react to children, parenting them strictly with our emotions. But, at the same time, when parents see their children doing something that is not good for their well-being, their emotions become the very force that drives them to correct their children out of love for their well-being.

Finally, I began the above quotes from James and Matthew by highlighting the words, “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no.” If parents want their children to be obedient, then this passage from Matthew is crucial to establishing this. The bottom line is that parents need to enforce the expectations they have of their children. Do not beg for a child’s obedience; do not repeat the request over and over if it is not heeded. If one’s yes means yes, or no means no, then after one warning or reminder, a parent needs to enforce what their child is being directed to do. The child’s activity needs to be directed to what they need to do, and if not, then mom or dad needs to stop whatever their child is doing until they are ready to
comply. If this can happen with children in family life, it will help to build consistency, stability, and promote an obedience based on trust.

Next week I will reflect on obedience one last time. I will focus on the Cross; this is where obedience, trust, and love all come together in this once-and-for-all, life-creating act of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgive me a sinner. The blessing of the Lord be upon you.

+Paul

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