Sunday Catechism: Why We Obey

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Q: What does the introduction to the Ten Commandments teach us?

A: The introduction to the Ten Commandments teaches us that, because God is Lord and is our God and redeemer, we must keep all His commandments.

We find here that the reason for obedience, the key to obedience and righteousness, is in knowing who God is. He is Lord, the Creator, the Sovereign over all, and is therefore due absolute obedience on pains of the natural consequences from his designed order and irrefrangible will. Then He is our God, the Lord of the elect, the one upon whom we have placed our allegiance, and is therefore due our obedience out of fealty and covenant and kingdom-identity. And He is also our redeemer, the one who delivered us out of slavery, the one who has personally sacrificed all in love to take us from nothing to a new life, and so we obey in gratitude and feeling.

The key to obedience is to dwell upon these truths, to know more deeply the God we serve, to explore and reflect on who He is and what He has done. Usually, though, we emphasize the commandments over the one who gave them. We think the key to obedience is in our own identity, our own willpower, and the technical boundaries of ethics, our own philosophy. We see the irony played out repeatedly in the Gospels as religious figures debate the law, unable to recognize the Son of God before them.

How does our children understand right living from us? When we excoriate them for misbehaving, do they understand who they ultimately offend — and how the power of obedience lies not within them but within God’s own grace? When they see us struggle with our own foibles, who do they see us turn to? Ourselves? Lashing out at others? When they ask why they must do something, do we know the answer? And do we take the time to explain it to them?

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