When our younger children were teenagers, I asked them one evening, “Do you think we have a lot of rules in our home?” They looked at each other and finally Bethany answered for the group, “Well, we seem to really just have one big rule: Do whatever Mom and Dad say.” It was an interesting answer and I immediately wondered how they would always discern – following the one big rule idea – what Mom and Dad would say in any given situation.
Years later, I realized what Bethany was saying. The idea of children obeying their parents as one big rule is both biblical and practical, and on the practical side it looks like this. One of our core values as parents was to establish a relationship with our children. A relationship based on love and mutual respect. A relationship based on knowing and being known. Rhonda and I asked a lot of questions at our house to learn what life looked like from our children’s point of view. Did this somehow diminish our authority? I don’t think so. Our authority just became more grounded in our relationship than in structures of control.
So because we allowed ourselves to be known by our children, it wasn’t much of a stretch for them to know what Mom and Dad were thinking in any given situation. So even if we didn’t address a particular issue – we did discuss many situations and temptations beforehand – our children basically knew what Mom or Dad would say. Hence, because we knew and were known by our kids, the one big rule of doing whatever Mom and Dad said was not arbitrary or dangerous. Their obedience was based on a love relationship.
It is the same idea with our Lord. When you know the Lord as well as we know our own children or parents, we know what God is thinking. We know what He expects. We know what kind of things please Him. We don’t need to know a list of rules because we know the rule-maker. And the more time we spend learning the rule-maker’s ways, the more we learn His heart. His ways are no longer so distant that they cannot be known. God has chosen to make Himself known to those who seek a relationship with Him. Since our obedience flows from this love relationship, His commandments are not burdensome, but life-giving. And best of all, they draw us closer to the heart of God.