I used to be a primary school teacher. To be fair, I was never actually interested in teaching and it was due to two reasons that I eventually started my first year of a primary teaching degree in 2006. The first reason was, quite plainly, that my Dad told me to. The second reason was a science lesson my friend and I were asked to carry out for a class of Yr 3 students who were very excited to learn about microscopes.
Fast forward a couple of years and I had got the hang of this teaching business – lay down the law, follow through on an expectation and these Yr 3, 4, 5, 6 students will fall in line and obey. While it might sound comical, arrogant even, these techniques generally worked and for the most part I saw first time obedience from my classes. Then, in 2017, I moved to middle school and obedience was sometimes, if at all, a little frustratingly shy in coming forward.
Why is it so hard?
As a teacher I sometimes look at my students and wonder, with almost endless amazement, what it is about my instruction that is incomprehensible or unreasonable – surely, it is a reasonable request to ask my class to be quiet in the school library? I mean, I’m not asking them to be silent while they’re with me at the pool for their swimming lesson because that would be unreasonable, right?
Here’s the real clincher - as parents, educators or anyone who has anything to do with children, teenagers and even school leavers, we know exactly why we’re issuing these seemingly ridiculous instructions (…demands…mandates…) and it has a lot to do with love. It’s simply because we love them. We want the best for them. We want to see them achieve so much in their lives. We see their potential and we don’t want it to be wasted.
I wonder how God’s heart is broken when we, the only one out of all of His creations to receive the gift of eternal life through His Son, fall short of the mark through our disobedience. When we fail to reach our full potential, or take a longer, perhaps more painful route to realise the incredible plans that God has for our lives because our choices don’t align with His will?
Here are some interesting things I have noticed as an educator about my beloved middle school students and their ability to demonstrate obedience:
1. Distraction: it’s very difficult to follow an instruction or a request when you’re busy hatching lunch time plots for soccer games or social upheaval WHILE the teacher is talking.
2. Attitude: it can be almost impossible to show obedience when you’re convinced that the absolute best way of doing life is your way because your 13, 15, 17 (…25) and you’re a boss.
3. Relationship: obeying anyone in authority can be challenging when there is no relationship and no understanding of the heart of that authority figure.
Where did this all start?
Genesis chapters 1-3 reveals so much to us about the heart of God toward Adam and Eve (mankind) and what the effects are when choices are made in opposition to God’s will – essentially, when we disobey. To briefly summarise, Genesis chapters 1 and 2 explore the power of God in creation in that when He spoke light, seas, land and heavens were created and all His creation (including mankind) were looked upon as ‘…very good.’; we also see God’s abundant provision for man’s needs in chapter 2 verse 16 when God says, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ I imagine that there were possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of trees in the garden that Adam had free reign to eat from. The one tree that Adam was told not to touch was the one that would lead to death – there was a very good reason to obey that command from God.
Here is where it gets interesting…
Genesis 3 – We start with distraction – the serpent whispering and sowing seeds of doubt into Eve’s mind about what God had said regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In verse 4 and 5 we read about how Satan lies to Eve. It’s hard to be obedient to God when you’re listening to those other voices like fear, intimidation and inadequacy; when you’re listening to what culture says is right and wrong and setting your moral compass and life choices to that voice.
Verse 6, here, attitude makes an appearance – a desire to be God-like, discontented with being simply made in His image and desiring to take control rather than trust in God’s heart of love.
Finally, we read about Satan’s deceit and manipulation of Eve’s understanding of God’s heart toward mankind. God had been generous, there were many trees within the garden that Adam and Eve could eat from at will, and one tree He withheld from them, that they would not be separated from a personal and intimate relationship with Him.
Distraction. Attitude. Relationship.
We know how this ends: sin enters the world and mankind is separated from God until Jesus Christ provides a way, through His obedience, to restore us into right and eternal relationship with God.
Romans 5:19 – ‘For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.’
I have students who ask me why God, if He knew that Adam and Eve would sin, would still put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. This is my favourite question to answer, because while God intended Adam and Eve (mankind) to be in perfect relationship with Him, it was even more important to God that we chose freely to believe in Him and to be in relationship with Him.
God doesn’t want us to be obedient because we feel we have to be, He wants us to choose to be obedient, to exercise that gift of free will, because we understand that God has a heart of love and He wants to bless us. He sees our potential, the incredible ways in which our lives can be a testimony of His love, glory, unending mercies and abounding grace.
The question then remains: At what cost do we choose to disobey the will of God?
Janna’s previous articles can be viewed at:
Janna Cutler (nee Mills) is a Christian and educator from Queensland who married the second greatest love of her life in last July,. Janna's interests include reading, writing, eating, the beach, travel and connecting with young people who are trying to walk out their love and relationship with Christ in a middle school setting.
Janna Cutler’s previous articles can be viewed at: