Growing good citizens

I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed… Malachi 3:6 (The Message)

God has given us laws to live by; we know what they are. And we know we’re going to mess up. He has a plan in place for that as well: love, grace, and mercy. His people know exactly where they stand with God—there’s no need to guess.

Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before. Deuteronomy 11:26–28, NLT

?????Obedience and rejection, blessing and a curse. He gives us the law to show us right from wrong. And he never stops loving us when we sin, disobey, and make mistakes. He loves us and gives us a way back to himself. That’s the model for Godly discipline. In his book Changes That Heal, Henry Cloud states it this way:

“…The relationship of the ideal to the real needs to be loving and accepting, while prodding onward. Good parenting follows this guideline, as God does with us. A child who is treated harshly for failure becomes afraid of trying. Fear of failure often comes from an authority figure’s hard reprimand for a mistake…”

What happens when we don’t learn these patterns? In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul confronted them about being stuck on a plateau, not able to receive the teaching and knowledge of the Good News fully. What was stopping them?

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:12–14 (NLT)

God put parents in a position of authority, of loving power. The loving exercise of this power enables a child to follow her parents out of a healthy “fear”—a fear based in love. It’s a model she can emulate later in whatever role she plays in life: homemaker, church leader, farmer, factory worker, or company president. She has a model in her head of what it means to take a role, a job, or an office, and execute it with authority.

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.

Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. Romans 13:1-5 (MSG)

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