Obey your parents. Don’t steal. Love each other. Don’t lie. The Bible is filled with commands for us to follow and to a child, it can seem like following Christ is just a list of rules. If we’re not careful, our kids will think the following Jesus is more about following the rules than it is about following Him.
I have a child who balks at the rules. She’s not a fan of authority in any form. If we present following Jesus to her as simply a list of rules to follow, she’s not interested. And she shouldn’t be. If all God cares about is whether we follow His rules, then Christianity is no different than any other religion in the world.
The truth is, there are a lot of commands in the Bible, but God is less concerned with our ability to follow the rules than He is with our hearts. God is interested in having us commit our hearts to following Him. If we do that, then because we love Him, we will want to follow the path He’s laid out for us.
Following Jesus is first and foremost about having a relationship with Him. It’s about deciding that His way is better than our own and allowing Him to be in charge of our lives. When we do that, following His commands will naturally follow.
You can explain it to your kids like this. Choosing to follow Jesus is a lot like choosing to join a sports team. When you join a sports team, you voluntarily commit to following the coach’s directions. It’s the same thing with following Jesus. You don’t have to follow a list of rules to have the abundant life that Jesus promises in John 10:10, you simply have to follow Jesus. Following His commands will be a natural outgrowth of choosing to follow Him.
It’s also helpful to remind our kids that all of the commands in the Bible are there for a reason. God is either trying to protect us or to bring glory to Him. When He told the Israelites not to eat certain foods, He was protecting them as many of the foods He told them not to eat carried disease. When He tells us not to lie or steal, He’s protecting us from the consequences of those choices. When He tells us to love each other, He’s bringing glory to Himself by letting others see His love through us.
When your kids get caught up in the “rules” of following Jesus, remind them that God cares about their hearts and their choice to follow Him. If our hearts are in the right place and we are choosing to follow Jesus, then following His commands will naturally follow.