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Heartprints

Teaching Children to Live Love

Obedience is one of the universal things that both parents and teachers seek to produce in children. As Christians obedience done with a wrong motive may look like obedience to us but it falls short. When it comes to obeying God, the heart attitude is as important as the action. A simple observation of their actions will not be enough to prove Biblical obedience.

Sometimes a child gets it right by accident. They didn’t intentionally decide to obey but circumstances were such that without thinking about it they chose the right action. There are children who obey for fear of the punishment and with resentment in their heart. Other children do what they have been told because they have an agenda of their own and it behooves them to build trust and respect to get their desired goals. Children who obey out of love for their authority figure, without an intentional response to God’s Word still fall short of Biblical obedience.

Ultimately true obedience toward God must involve an understanding that God is the ultimate authority. Obedience falls short if it is done from fear of consequences or to gain favor with God. Nor is it obeying God if our goal is to impress others. Real obedience, as taught by Jesus, involves knowledge of God’s will and loving response to a loving Father. In John 15:10 Jesus said, “If you obeymy commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (NET Bible) 

One major difference between Jesus, the “perfect Adam” and fallen humanity is that Jesus always did what was right out of a pure love for His Father.  No one had to make Him do what He knew was the thing God wanted Him to do.  He did it because His love for His Father in Heaven was more important to Him than having a fun day or doing what his friends did so that they would like him more.  Jesus' life was not one that was filled with fun times. He was called in Isaiah 53 “a man of sorrows.” His life was always full of the light of God. He shone God's love so brightly in such a dark sinful world while he walked these dusty roads that it is still shining on us today through the pages of the Bible. 

Jesus walked in the light. He wants even children to walk in the light as He is in the light. That means that every child in our care needs to know what God's word says to do. They also need to know that obedience is more than just outwardly doing what we have been taught is right. They need to cultivate a loving relationship with their Heavenly Father. They need us to teach them that obedience doesn’t make us right with God, Jesus does. Obedience is how we can see Jesus living in us and through us. That kind of obedience, the Jesus kind, is done in response to a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father.  

In Psalm 119:9-12 we read: How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your instructions! With all my heart I seek you. Do not allow me to stray from your commands!  In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you. You deserve praise, O Lord! Teach me your statutes!” (NET Bible) 

This concept of praise in the Bible seems to have at least two distinctive parts. First, praise is given from a heart that believes the one to whom it is given is worthy of it. Secondly, praise involves passion, a deep longing with all that is in them to give praise.

The Psalmist is telling us in Psalm 119 that storing up God’s Word in our hearts is what produces obedience. He follows this statement with “You deserve praise, O Lord!” If we want to teach our children to obey God, then we must also teach that obedience is an act of praising God. The Psalmist linked our obedience to loving praise. We must too. To live love is to lovingly obey.

Suzi Ciliberti

Suzi Ciliberti works for Christar, a Missions Agency that plants churches among least-reached Asians worldwide. She served in Japan for two years as a single missionary and another nine with her husband and two children, then the family returned to the states. She and her husband have been serving in the US Mobilization Center since 2000. As a part of the Member Care Department, Suzi is consultant to families with children. She has been working as a children’s teacher since she was 17 and began her training under Child Evangelism Fellowship. She has taught in the church, as a school teacher for two years in a Christian elementary school, and as a speaker for adults training to work with children. She has also trained children, who are a part of families that work overseas, in their identity in Christ. She brings 44 years of teaching experience to her work. She loves creative writing as well as teaching and has found great fulfillment in combining the two as she blogs for Heartprints. She finds it a great privilege and joy to serve the Lord and His people. One of her favorite verses is Deuteronomy 4:10b, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."