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Learning Obedience: The Great Debate

  • Cheri Swalwell Contributing Writer
  • Published Nov 20, 2012
Learning Obedience: The Great Debate

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands…” - 2 John 1:6

Argue…debate…rationalize...manipulate.  I think we could agree that most families are made up of at least one child (if not more) than does this a little bit better than the rest.  When given a direction, instead of just saying, “Yes, mom,” and fulfilling the request, a long list of reasons why it should be done later, shouldn’t be done at all, or how it could be done better follows.  

One of the characteristic traits my husband and I stress in our household is that by obeying your parents, you are in reality learning how to obey God, our ultimate authority.  One of the reasons we stress that rule is so that I have the assurance in an emergency when my children need to stop or be quiet when I tell them to, they will obey first and ask questions later.  By obeying my authority right then, it could very well mean my children avert a disaster instead of getting hurt or even worse.  

Isn’t it like that sometimes in our relationship with God?  He gives us clear guidelines in the Bible for our own good.  The rules in the Bible aren’t there because He was bored one day and needed something to do.  No, the rules are there to help us live a purposeful, fulfilling, and at least as much as possible, peaceful life here on Earth.  He put them there for our own good.  It is our responsibility to obey first, ask questions later.

But how many of us actually do that?  How many of us, in reality, are willing to step out in faith and just obey God?  Yes, it’s easy to follow the Big rules:  Don’t murder, Don’t steal, Don’t commit adultery.  What about the little rules?  Are we really following those when we are jealous of our friend’s 3000 square foot house compared to our 1500 square foot house?  What about when we rationalize that taking office supplies from work and using them at home for our kid’s school project really isn’t stealing - it’s owed to us?  Lastly, what about when we fudge on the time sheet a little bit, since “no one will notice anyway.”  

As important as it is to teach our kids to obey our authority which teaches them to obey God’s ultimate authority, there is another side to the story. 

Yes, I firmly agree that there are times when our children need to just obey - without arguing, whining, debating, manipulating.  However, there are other times when listening to their opinions and asking them how to solve an issue might grow their independence, reasoning skills, and learning responsibility.  

I’m not talking about life-and-death situations.  There are certain nonnegotiable items in life, but there are also lots of gray areas.  As a parent, I’m learning that it’s important to distinguish between the two while our kids are still young, so that when they hit middle and high school and their independence really needs to blossom, these skills will already be in place.  For a semi-control-freak like myself, this is sometimes a hard lesson to teach.  

It’s important to look at the big picture.  As the parent, I want certain things done in a certain timeframe.  For instance, chores need to be completed before my kids participate in a fun activity, they need to be relatively clean and presentable (including shower, appropriate clothes, hair and teeth brushed), and they need to learn how to make appropriate decisions in a variety of situations.  But…can’t the end result look different for each family and possibly even for each family member?  

Taking into consideration that each child is an individual, isn’t it acceptable to allow one child to do his chores in the morning because he wakes up fresh and ready to tackle the day, whereas allowing the other child a chance to slowly greet the morning and still have hers done by lunchtime?  Is it super important to take a shower at night, or can one child take their shower in the morning as long as there is enough time to catch the bus?  Yes, there are certain clothes for certain situations, but within that boundary, isn’t it more important that your child work on his or her own sense of style while still living under your roof, time for a child to experiment with individual taste before that all important job interview?  And isn’t it more important that your child came up a solution, unique to him and his situation, that you agree with, when dealing with the bully, the awkward social situation, or the problem with friends?  

If really listened to, and encouraged to sometimes think outside the box (which means we, as parents, need to be willing to step outside the box too), our kids can come up with some creative solutions to their own situations and maybe some of our sticky situations too.  

I want to challenge you today:  First of all, as parents, we need to teach our children how to obey our authority, so that in turn they get lots of practice to obey God, their ultimate authority.  How about examining your life and asking God to show you one area where you need to maybe say, “Yes, God, I will obey” more instead of rationalizing, manipulating, debating, or arguing the situation.  You just might find that you feel more peace as a result of that decision.  Try it and then let me know.  

Lastly, I encourage you today to really listen and ask your child once in a while to solve a particular challenge.  I’m learning in my own family that there is more than one way to stack groceries, clean a house, or cook dinner.  And you know what…I’m enjoying the change as well as seeing the pride in my kids when they realize they are listened to and their ideas are considered worthwhile.  That, in all honestly, is the main reward.  

Cheri Swalwell describes herself as a Christ follower first and foremost, wife, mother, and avid reader. She has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including here at and If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog or like her on Facebook

Publication date: November 23, 2012