THE CONSCIENCE OF A FOUR YEAR OLD
Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:3-5
A few days ago my four-year-old grandson visited me for several hours. After a particularly trying moment where he tested the limits of my authority, I informed him that he would obey me and decided he was old enough to begin to understand why. I sat in my office chair, pulled him up on my lap and said, “The only way you will be happy is to obey whoever is in authority. God made you that way. Even Nana has people to obey, did you know that? Policemen tell me what to do. Even Jesus tells me what to do. And when I hear His voice, my heart should say, ‘Yes, Lord!’ Nana is just miserable if I don’t obey Jesus. I love you, Andy, and I want you to have a happy heart. Obeying me right now is so important.”
I’m not sure he had a breakthrough moment. This will be the beginning of many discussions like this but it’s a beginning. Ultimately, any of us in authority over children should handle it carefully for we are training them to grow up and say, “Yes, Lord!” to whatever He asks of them. We don’t want them to have to learn submission through the hard road of rebellion and discipline. Whatever we don’t teach them well, God will. The lessons will be harder at 35 then they would have been at Andy’s age. Let’s spare them that.
How tender is my conscience? I believe there is a test.
How easily do I ridicule authority? When those in power are mostly ungodly, I can become cynical, then disrespectful.
How easily do I malign my parents? “But they live in such a way as to earn my disgust,” I might argue. Disgust and sadness over their ungodliness are two different things. If they live foolishly, and in spiritual blindness, does my heart grieve or does it ridicule and disregard?
How easily do I take a casual attitude toward those in church authority? I may like certain elders and deacons but question the wisdom of why others were appointed. Each one, regardless of whether or not I believe they are spiritually equipped, has had their position conferred upon them. Showing honor means I have a level of respect for the office they hold. Speaking respectfully of them, and to them, is doing so to God.
How much do I value the wisdom of the elderly and protect their quality of their lives? Am I appalled by the growing disregard of youth against the aged? “Get off the road, old man!” is the prevailing attitude of this age. Meanwhile, many have stored up the riches of wisdom learned from a lifetime of living. Even those who have a ton of regrets have a lot to teach me. Do my arms surround them with care and tenderness? Does my attitude reveal that they are of value to me? That will come out in dozens of ways when I’m in public.
Sin sears my conscience. I know the biblical principle. But I can be short-sighted about what causes it; what God considers sinful. The next time I roll my eyes at someone in legitimate authority over me, I will be pulled up short to see how teachable I am to change. May God help me. My tender heart is at stake.
I want a teachable, tender spirit when I’m 80, Lord. Show me where I lost the pieces of my conscience. Amen