My children have all become adults, but when the house was full of teenaged eating machines, we needed their help to keep the household clean and tidy. Often, we would say: “Please take out the trash,” or, “It’s time to wash dishes.” These statements are rather mild commands, which often failed to penetrate the dense fog of teenage chemistry, attitude, or distraction. When you’re playing Halo, apparently, you can’t hear your mom. If the first, polite request is ignored, the command gets shorter and sharper: “TAKE out the trash,” or, “WASH the dishes.” These are imperative verb forms, which are used to penetrate the fog and direct the action of another person. Often, at least in the household, there’s an implied “or else.”
The consequence forms the reason for the person receiving the command to follow through on what has been commanded. I could often see my child wrestle with the potential fallout of disobedience or an obvious bad attitude.
The Bible is no stranger to imperative verbs. As the Apostle Paul writes the book of Ephesians, he uses these familiar tools of language in the second part of the book to command right behavior for those in the church. But consequences are not the foundation for obedience here in Ephesians. Paul doesn’t use “or else” to motivate Christian behavior, instead, he points to the new relationship Christians have to God. You are commanded to obey because God now calls you His child. Since you are God’s child, surely your attitude is one of willing obedience.
I’ve made the transition from father to grandfather, and I love spending time with my grandchildren. The oldest grandchild was playing in the backyard while I was cutting the grass, and he decided that I needed his help. With no command and no consequence, this sweet little boy found joy in helping his papa with the chores. I think this is the attitude that God wants from us when he commands our obedience. That we move to obey because of who we are and our relationship with our heavenly Father.