There are those who believe Christianity is merely a set of harsh rules made and enforced by a grumpy old God. Unfortunately, many Christians make matters worse by the ways they attempt to teach, explain and reinforce God’s commands. The truth is that God’s commands aren’t God’s attempt to make us miserable nor are they meant to be some sort of tortuous litmus test for entry into Heaven. Rather God’s commands incorporate God’s perfect wisdom and love. They are instructions for living the best possible life in a fallen world.
Have you ever seen someone try to put together a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions? Since it’s a challenge even with instructions, attempting assembly without is a formula for disaster. God’s instructions for you and your children are very similar. Life is difficult – even as a Christian. Failing to follow God’s instructions for living the Christian life just adds layers of complications and negative consequences – some of which can have lifelong repercussions or even end one’s life prematurely.
There are some fun things you can do to illustrate this to your children in more concrete ways. Here are some of our favorites.
- Origami fail. Find instructions for an origami figure your kids don’t know how to make. Give them some paper and read the instructions to them. Do not show them the finished image or tell them what they are trying to create. Periodically, start to read a step (stopping before it makes any sense) and tell your children that you don’t like that step and think you have a better one. Then give them a random step that’s sure to mess up the final product. After the final step, show them what their object should look like. Ask them why theirs doesn’t look the same. Then repeat the process, but this time give them the proper directions. (When we don’t like God’s instructions and try to replace them with our own, our lives won’t turn out the way God wanted them to.)
- Tech disaster. Ask your kids to help you assemble something or figure out how to use a new product. Refuse to read the instructions. Be as frustrating as possible until they are begging you to read the instructions. (Isn’t it interesting how many Christians try to live the Christian life, but have never even read the New Testament for themselves? No wonder we struggle!)
- Blindfold maze. Create a maze your children can walk through, but don’t let them see it. Blindfold them one by one and guide them through the maze verbally (using safety precautions of course). Afterwards ask them what would or did happen when they didn’t follow your instructions exactly. (While there is grace when we ask forgiveness, failing to follow God’s instructions perfectly can result in negative earthly consequences – even after God has forgiven us because we repented.)
- Making up the rules as we go. Play a favorite board game with your children. Only this time, regularly announce you are changing one of the rules. Make sure all of the rule changes obviously favor you. (Sometimes when we don’t follow God’s instructions, we hurt others by our choices.)
Have fun with it, but revisit the topic regularly. It’s critical your children thoroughly understand the problems that arise when they don’t follow God’s instructions.