A Son’s Lesson in Obedience
“I cleaned my room, Dad!”
My son’s exclamation still hung in the air as he looked up at me with a less-than-convincing look of innocence.
Sure enough, his room was spotless - perhaps more spotless than it had been in a long while. Nonetheless, I fumed.
“Your grounded,” I sternly announced.
Tears began to well up in his eyes. “But why, Dad?”
Why. Did the reason really escape his comprehension, or was he just placating me?
I had set down the rules; I had made myself clear. All I expected was compliance, and it was obvious that my son had faltered in this. Still, it broke my heart to discipline him, especially since there was a semblance of obedience to his act, albeit a faux semblance.
I suppose I should explain. It was not the act of cleaning his room that I was angry about. On any other occasion, his spontaneous attention to cleanliness would have probably brought with it a fair amount of praise, possibly even a reward. No, his untimely attention to the tidiness of his room wasn’t the point at all; it was his lack of obedience. You see, he had stayed up way past his bedtime that particular evening. He had stealthily played for a long while before he finally decided he better get ready for bed. Cleaning his room was an afterthought, an impromptu attempt at atoning for his delinquency.
To obey is better than sacrifice. I searched for a way to explain this timeless truth to my little boy. It’s not an easy concept for a child to understand. But then, it isn’t easy for adults to understand either.
In many ways, my son’s behavior is exactly how we act toward God. Although the path of obedience is clear, we many times choose to do things our own way. Often, we ignore the obvious truth of God’s word and instead point to “sacrifices” we make for him. But the Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. In other words, our sacrifice means nothing if it isn’t wrought from love and obedience to Him. The words of the Old Testament prophet still ring true some two thousand years later:
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
After speaking with my son at length, I finally made him understand why I was so angry.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” he said, with all apparent sincerity.
We prayed, and after a few moments, I explained another concept to him: grace. I forgave his misdeed, and lifted his punishment.
Oh, I know that this lesson will probably replay itself over the years, and that there will undoubtedly come countless more occasions when my son will again try to bamboozle me with some impromptu chore to make up for a misdeed. But I also know that the Lord is longsuffering with me and forgives my disobedience, and so will I forgive. I just hope next time he washes the car.
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