If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15 NIV

Compliant children obey the rules, keep the peace, and respect authority. They’re agreeable, reliable and trustworthy, yet easily over-looked because they don’t demand constant attention.

Strong-willed children break the rules, argue often, and question authority. They’re disagreeable, demonstrative and usually nonconformists. They get all the attention because their behavior demands it.

Parents often wonder how such opposite children can come from the same lot. What discipline works well with one certainly does not prove effective with the other. In our attempts to be fair, we’re constantly challenged to balance this with love.

Luke reminds me of this in the “Parable of the Lost Son” (Luke 15:11-32). One son is compliant; the second is disobedient, impatient and rebellious demanding his inheritance immediately. The father complies with his demands.

The rebellious one leaves home and squanders his entire inheritance on frivolities. Starving and homeless, he returns home and apologizes to his father, admitting he has not only sinned against his family but also against God.

Like any parent of a “lost” a child, this father is overjoyed that God protected and returned the lost son, so he throws a party in his honor. The obedient son expresses his outrage:

But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:29-32 NIV

It’s all about the heart – the attitude behind the obedience.

When we love someone, our heart yearns to please them and obedience comes naturally, not dutifully. That’s a heart change. That’s being “found.”

Take a few minutes today and examine your heart.  Are you obeying God’s commands for the right reasons?  Is your heart right before the Lord?  If so, praise God. If not, confess it as sin and ask God to set you in the right direction and soften your heart. When we ask God to examine our heart, He loving sets us back on the right path.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us even when we go our own way.  Thank You for always being there to welcome us home and throw a party.  Forgive us for the times when we think we know best.  Help us to train our children up in a way that they will return to You (if and when they walk away).  Thank You for always loving us.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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