In John 14:15, Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He does not offer them a points system wherein they might earn rewards for keeping commandments. He does not offer them 100 points for loving God and 90 for loving neighbor and another 50 for not coveting so they can earn their way to heaven. He says simply, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” There is no bargaining, no threatening, but a simple invitation to prove love through obedience. The invitation is valid for us as well.
Perhaps it would be easier for us as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve if there were a points system so that we could set goals: so many obeyed commands equals so many square feet of mansion in heaven. Or maybe the threat of fire falling from heaven to consume us if we didn’t obey would keep some of us in line (because the very real and present earthly consequences of our sin sometimes don’t). But Jesus doesn’t give us any of that; rather, he says to obey “if you love me.”
Well, of course we love Jesus. No Christian I know would say he or she doesn’t love Jesus. We tell him in songs and prayers and sometimes even on bumper stickers. Yet sweet words are not exactly what Jesus is looking for—he wants us to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. He invites us to prove our love. He has already proven his love, and he did it long before we could even think to love him (Romans 5:8). God loved us before we could love him and he sent his only son to save us, open our eyes, and make us able to love him back. All we have to do is keep his commandments.
Children, even as they are being trained up in faith and pointed toward Christ, should trust and love their parents enough to obey them just as we ought to obey Christ. A small child who will not obey his parents is going to have trouble obeying God, keeping Christ’s commandments. Sometimes what the Bible calls “chastisement” is necessary in order to return a wayward child to the path of obedience. This is correction, and the Bible tells us, especially in Proverbs, that it is good for children because it delivers their souls from hell (Prov 23:14). Parents model the relationship between God and man as they relate to their children. The unpleasantness that may come from chastisement corrects the child’s actions and thinking because it creates a small calamity in his or her life concerning disobedience. This is practice for becoming a God-fearing adult.
I say again, a child who will not obey his or her parents will have trouble obeying God, keeping Christ’s commandments. The time to train Christians to obey, to keep Christ’s commandments and thereby prove their love for him, is when they are very young. This is the reason, dear parents, God has given you charge over your children. Your job is to train them to obey now while they are still being formed so that they can keep the commandments when they are older. The consequences of our sin at the age of twenty-five or forty-five can be far more calamitous than a small spanking for breaking a rule at the age of three, but the one might just prevent the other. A child who grows up readily obeying the parents he or she trusts and loves will find it easier to keep Christ’s commandments when he or she is old. So the next time you consider whether or not to correct your child over a little disobedience, remember: there is a lot more at stake than what is happening in that one short moment.