Learn Obedience by Accepting Discipline
IMAGINE standing atop a lofty mountain crag with the feeling of being literally on top of the world. What a joyous sense of freedom!
Yet your freedom is really quite limited. The law of gravity severely restricts your every move; a single misstep could spell disaster. On the other hand, how gratifying to know that the very same law of gravity prevents you from helplessly drifting off into outer space. So the law is obviously for your own good. Accepting the limits it places on your movement up there on that mountain peak is beneficial, even lifesaving.
Yes, at times laws and obedience to them may limit our freedom, but does this make obedience undesirable?
How God Views Obedience
As the “Grand Creator,” Jehovah is “the source of life.” For this reason all of his creatures rightly owe him obedience. Displaying the proper attitude, the psalmist wrote: “Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasturage and the sheep of his hand.”—Ecclesiastes 12:1; Psalm 36:9; 95:6, 7.
From the beginning Jehovah has required obedience from his creatures. The continued existence of Adam and Eve in Paradise was dependent upon obedience. (Genesis 2:16, 17) Obedience was likewise expected of the angels, even though they are a higher form of life than humans. Because some of these spirit creatures were “disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days,” they were punished by being delivered into “pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment.”—1 Peter 3:19, 20; 2 Peter 2:4.
Plainly stated, God views obedience as a requirement for gaining his approval. We read: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.”—1 Samuel 15:22.
It Must Be Learned—Why and How
Obedience leads to a righteous standing with God, so how imperative that we learn it! Like learning a foreign language, the habit of obedience can be learned when we are young. That is why the Bible emphasizes the training of children from their infancy.—Joshua 8:35.
Some moderns contradict the Bible’s view, saying that requiring obedience of children is tantamount to mental rape. They argue that children should be allowed to develop their own personal ideas and standards by which to live without outside adult interference.
But in the 1960’s when many parents held this view, Wilhelm Hansen, lecturer, editor, and professor of psychology, disagreed. He wrote: “For a child in its primary stage, at a time when its relationship to its parents is still decisive, ‘bad’ is what the parents forbid and ‘good’ is what they recommend or praise. Obedience alone, therefore, guides the child in the way of morality and of the cardinal virtues upon existence of which his relationship to moral order depends.”—Compare Proverbs 22:15.
God’s Word emphasizes the need to learn obedience. We read: “I know, O LORD, that man’s ways are not of his own choosing; nor is it for a man to determine his course in life.” (Jeremiah 10:23, The New English Bible) History is full of instances where humans have charted their own life course according to personal standards and have run into serious difficulties for having done so. Why does this happen so often? Because humans lack the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to chart their life course unaided. Worse than that, they have an inherited tendency to make wrong decisions. Immediately after the Flood, Jehovah said of man: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.”—Genesis 8:21.
Hence, no one inherits the tendency to obey Jehovah. We have to inculcate it in our children and go on learning it throughout our lives. Each of us needs to cultivate the heart condition of King David, who wrote: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths. Make me walk in your truth and teach me, for you are my God of salvation. In you I have hoped all day long.”—Psalm 25:4, 5.
Teach Obedience by Being Obedient
Jesus’ mother and adoptive father well knew the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. They therefore realized that he was to play an important part in the fulfillment of Jehovah’s purposes. (Compare Luke 1:35, 46, 47.) In their case the words “Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah” had a unique meaning. (Psalm 127:3) They fully recognized their tremendous responsibility and were thus prompt to obey divine directions, such as when they were told to flee to Egypt or later to go to Galilee.—Matthew 2:1-23.
Jesus’ parents also recognized their responsibility as regards discipline. True, during his prehuman existence, Jesus had always been obedient. But while on earth, he learned to be obedient under entirely new circumstances. For one thing, he had to obey imperfect parents because even a perfect child needs discipline in the form of instruction and education. This his parents provided. Discipline in the form of punishment, on the other hand, was unnecessary. Jesus always obeyed; he never had to be told twice. We read: “Then he went home with them [his parents] to Nazareth and was obedient to them.”—Luke 2:51, Phillips.
Joseph and Mary also knew how to teach Jesus by way of example. We read, for instance, that “his parents were accustomed to go from year to year to Jerusalem for the festival of the passover.” (Luke 2:41) By arranging to take his family along, Joseph showed that he was interested in their spiritual welfare and that he took Jehovah’s worship seriously. In similar ways, parents by their own obedience in matters of worship can teach obedience to their children today.
Because of the fine disciplining in righteousness on the part of Joseph and Mary, “Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” What a fine example for Christian parents to follow today!—Luke 2:52.
“Obedient . . . in Everything”
“You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20) Jesus could be obedient to his parents in everything because their obedience to Jehovah precluded their demanding of Jesus—or of his half brothers and sisters—anything contrary to Jehovah’s will.
Many parents today are also successfully teaching their children to be obedient in everything. Listen to three fathers, who, with their child-rearing days now behind them, presently serve in a branch of the Watch Tower Society.
Theo speaks about how he and his wife reared five sons. He says: “It is important to let children know from the very start that we grown-ups also make mistakes. Sadly, we even repeat them and constantly have to ask our heavenly Father for forgiveness and help. We deliberately allowed our children to see that just as they were struggling with the anxieties of youth, we were struggling with the anxieties of adults.”
If a child is to learn obedience, a loving relationship between him and his parents is vital. Hermann says of his wife: “She was not only the boys’ mother but also their friend. This they appreciated, so it was not difficult for them to be obedient.” Then adding a practical tip on how to better the parent-child relationship, he says: “We deliberately did without a dishwasher for several years, so that the dishes had to be washed and dried by hand. Our sons were assigned to do the drying, taking turns. There was no better time for casual communication.”
A loving parent-child relationship serves as a model for the relationship a Christian must have with Jehovah. Rudolf explains how he and his wife went about helping their two boys set up such a relationship: “Our basis was a regular family study. We assigned the children a number of appropriate topics for research. We also did our Bible reading together and then discussed the material. Our sons could see that Jehovah expects obedience from parents, not just from children.”
Christian parents realize that the inspired text “The reproofs of discipline are the way of life” applies to them as well as to their children. So while children have the obligation to be obedient to their parents in everything, parents must also be obedient in everything Jehovah requires of them. Besides strengthening the parent-child relationship, parents and children will want to strengthen their relationship with God.—Proverbs 6:23.
View Obedience Positively
How grateful we can be that God’s Word provides such practical counsel about rearing children! (See box.) Children who learn obedience from parents who discipline them in righteousness are a real source of joy for the entire Christian brotherhood.
Since obedience to God means life, we should avoid toying with the idea of suspending the restrictions God’s commands place on our personal freedom—even momentarily. Imagine, for example, that we could briefly suspend the law of gravity. How we would thrill to the exhilaration of soaring from a mountain peak up into the sky with nothing to hinder our freedom! But what would happen once things got back to normal? Think of the fall that would await us!
Learning obedience by accepting discipline contributes to the development of a balanced personality and helps us know our limitations. It helps us avoid being demanding and insensitive to the rights and needs of others. It helps us avoid bouts of uncertainty. In short, it makes for happiness.
So whether you are an adult or a child, learn obedience by accepting discipline so that “it may go well with you” and that “you may endure a long time on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3) Who wants to jeopardize his prospect of living forever by failing to learn obedience by not accepting discipline?—John 11:26.
[Box on page 29]
PARENTS, TEACH OBEDIENCE BY DISCIPLINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
1. Discipline on the basis of Scriptural laws and principles.
2. Discipline not simply by demanding obedience but by explaining why obedience is the course of wisdom.—Matthew 11:19b.
3. Discipline neither in anger nor with screaming.—Ephesians 4:31, 32.
5. Discipline children from infancy.—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
8. Discipline with full reliance on Jehovah, petitioning his help in prayer.—Judges 13:8-10.
[Picture on page 28]
“The reproofs of discipline are the way of life”