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When Obedience Isn’t A Product of Faith

I'm a parent of two beautiful young ladies. My oldest is studying to be a family counselor. My youngest is an RN, working in administration, overseeing the functions of an entire department of a hospital.

I am very proud of them and their achievements. I love who they are as sweet caring people and I admire the way they have worked hard to get ahead in life. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Desiring to raise our girls in a Christian home, we taught them that God’s Word says for children to obey their parents. We had consequences when they didn’t. Obedience seemed easier for our oldest. Our younger wasn’t mean, vindictive, or overly devious in her actions, but she was openly rebellious when it came to following rules.

After having conversations with our adult daughters about their childhood, I understand that though the older looked obedient; inside she was often rebelling. Her obedience out of fear of punishment or fear that we would be disappointed in her was not an act of faith. What often looked like rebellion in my younger daughter was often a need to know by experience.

We raised daughters, who, by this world’s standards, are both beautiful, gracious and productive. They are generous, loving and faithful family members, friends, and neighbors. However, spiritually they are struggling.

As Christians we long to teach children to obey God’s Word. It is vital that we remember that obeying us is not necessarily obeying God. How we deal with their desire to experience life will help them to run to the cross or to run away from it.

True faith can only come by hearing the Word. We teach God’s Word to our children then think that because they can to repeat it back to us that they believe it. Sadly. reading or even sitting under the teaching of God’s Word does not mean that that a person believes what God is saying. Obedience does not produce faith. It is actually the opposite. I can tie apples on a tree but that doesn’t make it an apple tree. If the tree doesn’t naturally produce apples, then it is not an apple tree or at least not a healthy one. We must remember the words of Isaiah quoted by both Jesus, and Paul:

Then the disciples came to him (Jesus)and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  He replied, “… Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand. And concerning them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:10-15 (NET Bible)

“They set a day to meet with him, (Paul) … he explained things to them, testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from both the law of Moses and the prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others refused to believe.  So they began to leave, unable to agree among themselves, after Paul made one last statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘Go to this people and say, You will keep on hearing, but will never understand, and you will keep on looking, but will never perceive.  For the heart of this people has become dull,and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have closed their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”’ Acts 28:23-27 (NET Bible)

Teaching accompanied with prayer that our children have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand the truths of God’s Word is the first step! But the second is to give our children opportunities to choose instead of being always forced into obedience. After all, it is in disobeying God’s Word that sin is revealed.

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."