Reading, Writing, ’Rithmetic…and Respect

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When I picked Jessica up from school that day, I could tell that she was unhappy about something. “How was school today?” I asked.

“Not good,” she said. “Well, mostly good. But there’s something I’m really not happy about.”

Naturally, I asked, “What are you not happy about?”

It turned out that Jessica’s class had been outside for recess when a woman who was walking her dog passed by the playground. Several students ran over to the chain-link fence, saying, “I want to pet your dog!”

The woman graciously allowed them to do so, but Jessica knew they should have asked permission, instead of just telling the lady what they wanted to do. So she and another classmate walked over to the lady and the group of students so they could tell the students to ask politely.

It was at this point that their teacher saw several of her class clustered at the fence near a stranger. Ms. S. immediately walked over, calling the students to her. She explained to them that they had put themselves in a dangerous position by approaching a stranger who could easily have yanked them over the fence, and she told the students they would have to sit quietly during the rest of recess (about 5 minutes) as a reminder not to approach strangers.

Jessica was unhappy because she had approached the fence for what she felt was a proper reason, as well as because she didn’t feel there was any danger in approaching the woman. I explained Ms. S.’s thinking to Jessica, but Jessica was still frustrated. We discussed the incident for quite awhile, but Jessica just didn’t see my point. Ultimately, I wound up explaining to her that while I would have handled the situation differently, her teacher’s actions were not unreasonable. I told her that sometimes, we have to submit to authorities we don’t agree with (we teach our children that the only time they are to disobey a legitimate authority is if that person tells them to do something Jesus wouldn’t want them to do—and we’ve talked about what that would include), and I commended Jessica for submitting to her teacher’s authority even though she disagreed with the teacher’s decision.

Jessica still wasn’t happy. But that’s okay. Because in learning to process what happened on the playground, Jessica mastered far more than whatever academic information Ms. S. presented that day.

You and I face similar situations every day, and sometimes, we still struggle with responding correctly (and we’re a lot older than third grade!). We don’t like to have to obey rules we don’t agree with.

Take the speed limit, for example. Or, to go a little deeper, how about the rule about “no gossiping”? How about “exercise self-control in all things”?

We resent the rules we don’t like. We chafe under them. Often, we refuse to obey them.

I don’t know which of God’s principles you have the most difficulty obeying. But I know you have some that are difficult for you, because everyone does. We’re all sinners. We all disobey sometimes.

But I think Jessica got it right. Even when we don’t like God’s rule, we should obey with a good attitude. Why, because He’s God? Well, yes, that. But also because His rules—and the consequences for breaking them—are designed to protect us and teach us. They’re designed to help us avoid harm and receive blessings. They’re good for us.

Really? God’s law is always good?

I’ll let you answer that for yourself. But I’ll tell you this: when we disagree with God on the value of following His rules, well…He’s not the one who’s mistaken.

Psalm 119:1—Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. (NIV)

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