Faithfulness in Obedience
"'Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh. You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let the words I enjoin on you today stay in your heart. You shall tell them to your children, and keep on telling them, when you are sitting at home, when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are standing up; you must fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a headband; you must write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.'" (Dt. 6:4-9 NJB)
This passage from Deuteronomy is one of my personal favorites; it hangs on the wall of my office between pictures of my two daughters. I love the poetry of it, the picture it paints of the life to which God has called his people. Israel is to love God with all they are, to worship him alone. And lest they be tempted to think that applies only to the Sabbath or only in the Tabernacle, the author elaborates. They are to love God, to proclaim his truth always – wherever they are, whatever they are doing, from waking to sleeping. Their faithfulness should be as obvious as a stamp on the forehead.
I love too the explicit commission to each generation to proclaim and live out a life of faithfulness before the next generation. This is a challenge that needs scant adaptation over time and across cultures. Each generation has the privilege and responsibility to pass on an example of faithfulness to the next, to declare the goodness of God as they themselves have experienced it. And we, just as the ancient Israelites, are called live it. The love of God should be clear no matter where we are or what we are doing. His truth should be with us always, in our hearts and on our tongues, whether we are at home, work, school or sitting in traffic.
When I was in Jr. High, a high school guy named Shane was my small group leader. Shane could drive and he had a car, and he chose to spend every Monday evening with us – all of which made him the coolest guy we knew. He would even hang out with us outside of Youth Group, picking us up and driving us around – a kindness that has grown more profound with time. And beyond all of that, Shane gave all of us one incredible and powerful gift – he modeled for us, humbly but consistently, a life of faithfulness to God in High School. Right at the time when many of us were deciding who we were going to be, he not only taught us about kindness and service, he showed us what it looked like.
Looking back, I would like to tell you that I took it all in, processed it, integrated it, and chose to live it out. But the reality is that I greatly admired him, and simply wanted to be like him. He lived his faith, in church and outside it, during youth group, but also on the weekends – and we watched it all. We knew in theory – even then, that obedience to God was the wiser course in life, but Shane was our proof. He made obedience to God cool just by obeying himself. And when we graduated to Senior High youth group, many in my small group, myself included, eagerly volunteered to help with the Jr. High – because of course that is what Shane did.
If you are a parent, you have already made the choice to mentor, are already mentoring. Our children are watching, listening and imitating. May they see parents who have the word of God in their hearts and on their foreheads, might they live in a house where God’s truth is carved into the doorposts. May our children be confronted always by the faithfulness of the parents, from waking to sleeping, at home or away.
If you are not a parent, you may get some breaks – some time when little eyes are not watching, but overall the call is the same. The next generation has always and will always face new and difficult challenges, but so too one of their best helps remains the faithfulness of the generation that goes before. Let us all be faithful to pass on God’s truth, and God grant that we may also be the proof of God’s goodness and faithfulness to those who follow.