A few nights ago my family gathered around our table for tomato soup. After our usual prayer and usual acknowledgement of all supplies I forgot to bring to the table, I asked for someone to grab me a spoon. Out of nowhere my two eldest children jumped out of their seats and dashed to the silverware drawer. My daughter made it there first and grabbed the spoon. My son, fearing no opponent regardless of size, began a tug-of-war, yanked it from her hand and the wrestling match began. Before my husband or I could stop them, they were on the floor screaming over who gets to take the spoon to mommy. It was weird.
As a parent of young kids, I spend my days pleading with someone to take their brother's underwear off their head or begging for them to limit toothpaste usage to a minimum. Never did it occur to me that my children would want to please me because they love me. Normally, I fear that they sense the dark and vengeful wrath that will unfold if they write their name one more time on the bathroom mirror with said toothpaste. Quite honestly, there is a part of me that wants them to fear my wrath. Maybe, simple respect is more of what I'm looking for.
In my ethics class last week we discussed theories of nonconsequentialism. That is, the theory that one makes choices based on intuition, duty, or out of sheer goodness. A nonconsequentialist pays no mind to the outcome, or consequences, of their decisions. This is a simplified definition, of course. There are other ins and outs that include philosophers like Kant and Ross, but I'll save that for a paper I'm sure to have due any moment. A nonconsequentialist obeys laws because they should, not out of fear of punishment.
This has me thinking...how much more fulfilling parenting would be if my children did what I asked because they love me. Something as simple as bringing a spoon shows that they do, at the least, long for my approval.
Transfer these thoughts to our spirituality.
Do we race to please God or do we obey out of fear of His wrath? Would it please Him more if our motives were to please Him; rather than to avoid spiritual death or gain eternal life? Am I truly living out a love for the father, or am I living out a routine that keeps me out of trouble? Am I teaching my children to obey me for me, or to obey in order to please our God?
God truly reveals His feelings for us, in that He wants to be our father. He is not described as our militant dictator. He is our father. The one who loves the undeserving. The father that loves His children. The least we can do is love Him back.
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." 1 John 3:1a