I am now teaching first grade Sunday school once a month at church, and last Sunday the lesson was based on 1 Samuel 15, that doleful story of Saul’s forfeiture of the kingship due to an act of disobedience. The teaching manual hit hard on “obedience,” with copious recommendations for activities and role-playing that reinforced the point. I was into it. I brought puppets.
The lessons come with a weekly memory verse, and the one accompanying this one was Psalm 119:60, which the 12 of us recited aloud as follows:
“I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.”
I tailored to my purposes the classic Bert and Ernie cookie skit from Sesame Street. But rather than Ernie succumbing to a temptation to gobble one of his good buddy Bert’s five cookies, I had Krusty the cowboy incrementally justify his pilfering of a cookie from a plate his mother had clearly marked, “Do not eat any cookies. Love, Mom.”
Later we talked about the “rules” for living that God gave Moses, and wrote four of them on the blackboard for our joint consideration:
- “Do not lie.”
- “Do not steal.”
- “Do not kill.”
- “Obey your mother and father.”
By the end of our hour and a half together, the children (and I) were under no ambiguity about what God requires of us: He wants us to obey Him. He is pleased when we obey Him, and He is displeased when we do not. There are consequences for obedience and for disobedience. We concluded, with no dissenters in the room, that obedience is crucial.
I left the Sunday school class wishing that adult classes were as unambivalent as the “Kids’ Life” program. When you enter the murky world of grown-up Bible instruction, things are no longer clear. Some new convert will gingerly float the notion that obedience is important. Then a person who’s been around the church longer feels the need to tamp down his enthusiasm for obedience by cautioning against legalism. By the end of a long hour of back-and-forth, all exit the room a bit more confused than they were when they walked in.
If they want to know the real deal, I suggest they nab any first-grader in the hallway.