But Renée and I have become increasingly aware that our children are masters at cunningly and often quietly disobeying us-at least initially. It’s amazing how good they are at this. Most of the time, when we tell our kids something, my wife and I find they’ll eventually do what we say. But their initial reaction says, “I’m not sure I just heard that” or “I’m not quit ready to do what you just said.”
Our kids are smart. They’ve learned that displaying outright, high-handed rebellion in front of their parents often produces some rather immediate and unpleasant consequences.

But Renée and I have become increasingly aware that our children are masters at cunningly and often quietly disobeying us-at least initially. It’s amazing how good they are at this.

I knock on Benjamin’s bedroom door a few minutes before dinner, look him in the eye, smile, and ask him to pick up his toys.

Ben looks at the new army green wristwatch he got for Christmas and acknowledges that he needs to have all the toys picked up by 6:05 p.m. I pat myself on the back for giving him that watch and go downstairs to let his sister Anna know that dinner is about to be served.

When I come upstairs, however, there’s Ben, with twice as many toys scattered all over his bedroom floor as there were a couple of minutes earlier, and a blank look when I ask him why.

Or Renée asks Anna to do something. Anna might immediately goes off to do what she’s been asked, but as she does, her lower lip is drooping and her steps are heavy. It’s obvious that she’d rather not do what Mom just asked.

And when I ask Anna to do something, she looks at me like I must be off my rocker: “But Dad, don’t you know Mom already asked me to do this other thing?” Most of the time, I have to admit I didn’t know that. But, between you and me, I also wonder why doing that chore suddenly became so important when she was so reluctant to do it only a few seconds earlier.

How thoughtful of God to give me children who remind of my own capacity to put his commands on “pause” at times. To paraphrase the words of the prophet Isaiah, “We like children have gone astray, each of us putting off obeying God in our own little way.”

Let’s face it. Benjamin doesn’t want to live by my rules because at his age, he’s ruled by his own wants and desires. For him, “Have fun” is a rule, and it takes priority over my rule to “Clean up and come eat.” Anna follows the rules, but in her heart, she still grips tightly to her own set of rules. Both illustrate how I sometimes behave with God-or despite him.

Granted, most of us don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’m going to deliberately rebel against God and mess up my life today.”

No, we much more often choose to sin by small degrees.

How prone we are to hear God’s word and then shortly after ponder, “Well, I am forgiven after all, and I’m not quite strong enough to obey that anyway.”

The problem, as James reminds us, is that to disobey God in one little point is tantamount to rebelling against everything God has said.

Little sins eventually betray a serious defect deep in our heart.

By “little,” of course, I mean little in our eyes, not in God’s eyes. Sin is sin.

That I am quite glad not to murder anyone today is no great virtue when I’m ignoring God’s presence in my life.

When I look back at all the sins I’ve committed along the way the past few weeks, I get worried.

What’s wrong with me? Or, perhaps better put, why am I so self-inclined and so God-averse? Why am I so apt to choose my will, my way, my timing, instead of choosing God’s will, God’s way, God’s timing?

I act as if God’s rules-any rules-are bad. Of course, they’re often good. I saw this again at my son Benjamin’s first basketball practice last season. With clearly defined rules reinforced by the coaches and referees, the boys can have a lot of fun. Without rules, however, the game quickly turns ugly and too many boys end up getting hurt. It’s anything but entertaining, enjoyable, or fun.

The same is true in every sphere of life-sports, education, music, family, church, employment, transportation, technology-you name it. In many cases, rules are essential.

Rules can protect us and help us to predict the behavior of those around us. If they aren’t autocratically made, changed, or enforced, rules can be very good-or at the very least, ethically neutral-for our society. If you’ve ever visited a major city in a foreign country, you’ve no doubt seen the traffic congestion at every major intersection, and realized the importance of traffic lights and the rules that require us to obey them.

Of course, sometimes to maintain a higher ideal we need to break the rules, which happens every time an ambulance turns on its siren and goes through a red light. It can happen in bigger and smaller ways, as well.

We always need to keep things in perspective: God is far greater than any rules. Focus too much on the rules, especially rules of our own making or reshaping, and we miss God’s heart and very presence in our midst.

 
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