In our Mama Heart Like Jesus series we are studying how Jesus discipled His followers as a model for discipling our own children.
Last month we focused on Jesus’ approach to protecting His disciples from evil, teaching them to be in the world but not of the world, and we discussed protecting our kids from the lies of the enemy.
This month we will discuss how Jesus taught his disciples to be like Him in character. He did this through His example, explaining why character is important, highlighting other people’s character, and through correction and encouragement.
One of the character traits Jesus focused on with His disciples was obedience, or teaching His disciples to follow His ways.
Jesus taught the disciples obedience.
Jesus taught the disciples not to follow their own ways, but to die to themselves and follow God’s ways. (Matthew 16:24) We, also, can teach our kids to obey our rules and explain how it shows us love when they walk in obedience and show us respect. When our children learn to obey and respect our rules, they are much more apt to obey and respect God and His commands. Here are three ways we can teach our kids to be obedient.
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10 (NIV)
1. Jesus taught His disciples why obedience is important.
Jesus didn’t just tell his disciples to follow Him, He explained the reasons why obedience is so important. In John 15, Jesus shares that following His commands will help His disciples remain in His love. We will be in a right relationship with our Father (God) when we obey His commands, and our children need to understand this. We can also share Colosians 3:20 with our kids: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” When our children understand that God loves them and desires that they obey Him and their parents, it will help them understand the importance of obedience and give them a desire to obey and respect their authority.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. ” Matthew 16:24
2. Jesus taught the disciples how to obey and follow Him.
In Matthew 16:24 (above) we see that Jesus teaches the first step in obedience – to deny yourself. In our sinful nature, we naturally want to rule ourselves. From the time we are two-years-old, we want to be our own boss. It is through the difficult lesson of denying our desires and doing what someone else tells us to do that we learn true obedience. This is a crucial step in obedience that many of us miss. If our children do not learn to submit, obey, and respect authority, how will they ever learn to obey their ultimate authority, God?
Here are a few ways to help your children learn submission and obedience.
Steps to teach obedience:
- Define Obedience. We often assume our kids know more than they do. When we define obedience, such as, “doing what you are told quickly, completely, and with a happy heart,” our kids will have a better understanding of what it looks like to obey and what you specifically want to see in them. Teaching your kids to respond “Yes, Mom/Dad” with a pleasant tone and to follow directions quickly and completely will help them have a concrete understanding of what obedience looks like.
- Give Examples of Obedience. When we give examples of what obedience looks like and doesn’t look like, we are going a step further in teaching them to apply obedience in different situations. Stories from the Bible where a character obeyed or didn’t obey God provide great examples for our kids. Also, creating scenarios and asking your kids what they should say or do in a given situation is a great way to get them thinking of how to act in different contexts.
- Practice Obedience in Real-life Situations. Remind your children when they are first learning obedience what to say or do when they get into a situation that requires obedience. For example, “Remember we are learning to obey with a happy heart, so say ‘Yes, Mommy’ when I ask you to put away your clothes.” If your child says/does the wrong thing, practice a “do-over” where you backup and try the scenario again, this time with your child answering the correct way.
* If your children are 12 years or older, focus more on the virtue of respect rather than obedience. You can still talk about what it looks like to show respect. Then follow the above steps to teach it in an age-appropriate way. For more on teens, check out my guest blog by Belinda here.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)
3. Jesus gave correction and encouragement.
We can see from the story of Mary and Martha how Jesus corrected Martha for doing the wrong thing and encouraged Mary for choosing the better way. While it wasn’t wrong for Martha to prepare a meal, Jesus could see her heart and knew she needed some correction because she was worried and upset. We, too, need to look beyond just the actions of our kids and focus on the heart of our children. What are they thinking and feeling? How are they reacting to situations? Then we need to call out the sin we see in their hearts, so they can deal with it. In contrast, when we see a heart with good character, we can praise our children for having a heart like Jesus.
Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that they were to follow His ways. He explained how important obeying God is to remaining in His love. Jesus also taught them to deny themselves to follow Him and gave them correction and encouragement when they needed it. These examples are great strategies we can use to help our children learn to obey and respect authority as Mamas with a heart like Jesus. I understand that it is hard sometimes to correct our kids, but if our children learn to submit and obey us, they will more easily learn to submit and obey their Father in heaven. And that’s the kind of children we want to raise.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)