Why do we obey? Why do we do the “right thing”? What makes something the “right thing” and can we really just do that simply because it is right with no thought of consequences?
Parenting leads me to reading stacks of books on the subject, searching for answers on discipline and training up a child. Focus on the Family has an incredible website with resources for parents and suggestions on Biblically sound reading. My most read authors up to this age are John Rosemond, Robert Barnes, and James Dobson. Coupling that information with relational literature by authors such as Henry Cloud and John Townsend and marrying that to its scriptural foundation, my conclusion is that human nature is inherently bad. It is human nature to be selfish and self serving, and that same nature also leads us to misery. We can see the way it started in the garden.
Even my sweet, precious Laurelei has a strong desire to get her own way, and a keen ability to see how she can manipulate the situation to get just that…children obey because they trust that there will be negative consequences when they do not, and they can trust that their life will be better, happier, and more peaceful when they obey their parents. This trains their minds to listen to their parents and trust their word (because when Mommy said “Each time you throw a temper tantrum you will go to your room, and if you do not go when I tell you to I will take your toys away and place you there myself.” Mommy followed through) . As Joyce Meyer is always telling us, we train our minds first and then our hearts follow.
When children learn that they can trust their parents word, they have to test it less because they trust it with their heart. This transfers over to God, they can trust His Word written that when He says to do or not to do something that obedience leads to prosperity and disobedience inevitably leads to negative consequences.
Now fast forward to adulthood. Books like “Boundaries” and “Safe People” have taught me that in many ways people treat you the way you teach them to treat you. This doesn’t mean that others aren’t responsible for their actions, just that we must recognize that the entire human race is depraved, but that people respond to consistent boundaries, and if there are none they will keep pushing for what they want (unless of course they have a trained heart and an intimate relationship with Jesus). Just thinking of this makes me want to crawl into my hole and avoid all people – God is there no one I can trust.
He reminds me that I can trust Him, totally and completely, and that when I come to Him with my brokenness and hurt, He won’t ever be tempted to sin. He can bind up our wounds, He can fill us, and from that fullness we can walk out into relationship. Anytime we take our half full cups to anyone else, they are likely to spill out their own hurt emotions on us…
I’m doing a Beth Moore Bible study on David, and looking at the life of a man who is considered the man after God’s own heart is quite eye opening on this subject. When David’s focus was fully on God, He walked with pure intentions, grace, confidence, and obedience. But every now and then David would get distracted by things like his enemies or selfish ambition and the path of destruction he left is unnerving. David.
It is challenging to hold these two conflicting ideas at the same time: recognizing that human nature is self seeking at its core so even the best Christians will let you down and fall short and hurt you, but that we also need to have relationships with others to grow and serve the Kingdom. I think it is important to recognize that we must submit ourselves to Father and keep our focus on Him. We also must recognize in the times when we fall short that we are human as well. This does not give us an out, but if we think that we can do “the right thing” on our own, we are sorely mistaken, and likely to end up in a world of disillusionment or pride or shame of our own making. When we fall short, we must come to our sweet Lord, telling Him our struggles, the same way Paul did when he said he knew what to do but could not do what he wanted to do. We can come before our Father and ask Him to thwart our ill-purposed plans, to provide ready consequences to train our hearts and minds, and ask Him to transform us from the inside out. It is Him that makes real transformation happen…pulling yourself up by your bootstraps sounds strong, but it puts all the focus on you. Instead, if we will humble ourselves before the Father, He will transform us, and He will create a heart that follows Him.