I never cease to be amazed at the way God can use just about anything to get my attention. It happened again this week while watching an excellent DVD series, The Reason for God with Tim Keller. In the six session series, Keller (senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) meets with a group of people to address their doubts and objections to Christianity. The conversations are interesting, thought-provoking and instructive as Keller and the group talk about the Bible, the exclusive claims of Christianity and about God in relation to rules, homosexuality, suffering, the church and the world at large. Especially impressive is the way each participant is afforded the opportunity to express their views, ask pointed questions and are treated with respect as Keller moderates the discussion. It was actually one of the discussion participants God used to get my attention–a young man of about 25. The discussion question was, “What gives you the right to tell me how to live my life?” The young man talked about his rebellion growing up and how irked he became when he asked “Why?” he had to clean his room, and his parents responded with, “Because I said so.”
I later thought about the young man’s struggle, wondering how many times I may have said “Because I said so” to my kids when they were still at home? Even though it was not a major part of my “parenting arsenal”, I felt convicted at the thought of having said it at all. I realized how self-centered such a response is! It occurred me that a much better response to “Why?” might be something like:“Because God loves you and has a plan for your life . . . because you need to be able to take care of yourself when you leave home . . . because I love you and want you to succeed at whatever God has for you!” I began to wonder: Be we parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, neighbor or stranger . . . if the love of God is our motivation in how we respond to kids, would the world be any different?
I think it would. Rather than responding in frustration, anger or with the knee-jerk response of protecting our “turf” (isn’t “Because I said so” truly a reflection of our own selfishness?) what a difference is made in any relationship when God’s love is our motivation!
Consider the example given us by God in how He dealt with rebellious Israel after they were taken into captivity in Babylon. Their rebellion resulted in their loss of every provision God had given them except for one . . . God Himself. I invite you to consider and learn from God’s loving assurance to Israel in their brokenness:
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” ( Jeremiah 29:10b-14)
Although our “nest” has been empty for over a decade, I still remember the tension of trying to get it right as a parent and feeling like a failure much of the time. (In fact, I still feel that tension as a parent, grandparent, neighbor and counselor at times.) As I reflected on this fresh approach of saying, “Because I love you and God does too” to the age-old question of “Why?” I was struck by how taking the focus off of “I” and interjecting the love of God softens the whole picture.
Sometimes there are unavoidable consequences that must come into play when rebellion is at the heart of the matter, but even so . . . responding with “Because I said so” is never going to accomplish anything good in the angry heart. Having the courage to respond wisely with the love of Christ however has all sorts of possibilities!
All to His Glory!