Why Should Our Kids (And We for That Matter) Obey God Anyway?
We’ve all been there. We’ve all given our children instructions, they’ve asked why, and we’ve responded with neither grace nor eloquence, “Because I said so!”
We’re tired, exasperated, and in search of a quick fix. We don’t have time to explain—or we don’t even know how to explain—and we just want it done right now. We hope the tone of our voices will show that we mean business and our toddler, young child, or even teenager will simply give in and do what we say.
But if time paused and we were given a moment to really think about the answer to their question of why, what would we come up with? Why do we want them to do what we’ve asked them to do? What are the motives behind our commands? What’s driving us?
The Biblical Answer to Why?
In the Bible, Paul answers the question why over and over. In every letter he wrote to the early churches, he didn’t merely give them instructions for godly living and say, “Because I said so!” He gave them—and us—a foundation, a motivation, a robust reason for doing what God asks us to do.
When we ask our heavenly Father, why, he gives us a life-giving and timeless answer through Paul. It’s an answer that will satisfy our own souls as we obey God. And it’s an answer that we can joyfully share with our children as we go. Indeed, it’s the only answer that will have staying power for any of us.
Paul’s letters all have a common flow, which is exemplified by one verse in his letter to the Colossians, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Colossians 2:6). This verse is a sort of pivot from the first half of the letter to the second half of the letter.
As with all of Paul’s letters, he starts with proclaiming his joy in the Lord. It’s as if he sat down to write to his brothers and sisters in Christ and just couldn’t help himself.
Jesus is the creator of all things, (Colossians 1:16)
he created everything for his glory, (Colossians 1:16)
he holds everything together, (Colossians 1:17)
he is reconciling everything to himself, (Colossians 1:20)
he even made peace with us by the blood of his cross, (Colossians 1:20)
even though you and I were separated from Christ by our sin, (Colossians 1:21)
he pursued us and reconciled us to himself. (Colossians 1:22)
Christ in you is the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
When we read Colossians we can almost hear Paul’s words getting faster and faster, culminating in a crescendo of praise. And then—then and not a moment sooner—he says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”
The praise comes first, then the pivot, and then the instruction for godly living. This order is crucial.
First, we understand the nature and character of our God. We remember his goodness and kindness to us. We recall how he gave himself over to us. We acknowledge that we were in darkness before him and he brought us into the kingdom of light. We say out loud that he’s a gift we do not deserve.
Then, after those rehearsals and proclamations, we set out to obey our good God. It’s from a heart full of remembrance and praise, which is how we received Christ Jesus the Lord, that we walk in him.
First we remember the gospel, and then we walk in it.
How satisfying is this motivation for obeying our Father and walking in godliness! How good to be propelled by his works and his nature and his sweet, undeserved pursuit of us. We can’t help but want to obey him—to walk in him—when we remember who he is and what he’s done.
Answering Why? as a Christian Parent
Christian parenting is discipleship. As Christian parents, we want our homes, our language, our actions, our thoughts to be distinctly Christian. If our ways can be replicated by our non-believing friends, then we must pause and ask ourselves if we’re truly following Christ.
Our friends who don’t yet follow Jesus have their reasons for good behavior. Their responses to their children’s why might be because that’s what good boys and girls do, or because we don’t want people to think badly of us, or because we have to earn the love and respect of our friends and family.
But our answer to why must have the substance of our Savior. Why should we obey our God? Because he is a good and kind creator and rescuer. Because he has laid down his life for us. Because he made us and knows us and has designed what’s best for us. We obey because we remember and we trust. And because he does it through us. Just as we received Jesus, so we walk in him.
We will always have moments where, in exasperation, we cry, “Because I said so.” But may we moms have a real reason for why we do what we do and why we want our children to do what we ask of them. May we share that reason with them. May our answers to why bear the aroma of Christ.
Because Jesus shared his life with us, we freely share with others.
Because our God is so kind to us, we’re willing to be kind to others.
Because Jesus laid down his life for us, we lay down our lives for others.
It was his grace that saved us. May it also be his grace that propels us. God’s grace is the answer to why.
Author’s Note: A version of this article first appeared here at RisenMotherhood.