Have you heard the story of the little boy (some variations are of a little girl) who has been told to sit down for time out, to fasten a seatbelt, or to sit in a highchair? The child refuses repeatedly, then finally sits, but declares, “I’m still standing on the inside!”
As I have been pondering obedience, that story comes to mind. Did the child obey? Well, he wasn’t quick to obey, but did he obey? Yes, he did eventually sit, so that was certainly outward obedience. As a parent or a teacher, we aren’t always satisfied with that level of obedience, are we? We want our children to obey both outwardly and inwardly.
Another story also came to mind. Jesus tells a parable of two sons. Matthew 21:28-32 (NLT) says,
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
“Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
The first son clearly did not want to obey, but he did it anyway. The second son said what the father wanted to hear. He seemed willing, but he didn’t follow through. He didn’t obey. Obedience, then, is the doing of what is required and it is not necessary to like it or agree with it to fulfill the requirement.
The third thing I have been pondering along these lines is submission. Unlike obedience, submission isn’t limited to those in authority over us, and it is a choice we make; submission is not coerced or mandated. When we submit, we put aside our will and do the will of the one to whom we are submitting. It could be a one time thing or a constant sacrifice of love to a beloved. But unlike obedience, submission is a choice. It is a gift, an act of love and respect for the one to whom we are submitting. The most vivid picture of this occurred when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” and ““My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (from Matthew 26:36-46) Although Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, He set aside His will to do the will of His Father. That is submission.
When we are training children, they must obey. Sometimes they obey willingly. These are the children who, when told to sit, are also sitting on the inside. They are the ones who are learning to submit along with learning to obey. I hope as I and my faculty teach our students, that we nurture a willingness to submit that leads to hearts fully submitted to the Father.