Autonomy is Misery

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.  And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” – 1 Samuel 8:4-9 (NIV)

Begging for a king of your own imagination is a dangerous thing, especially if your imagination is tainted with the influence of sin.  The Israelites wanted a ruler that would support the life they wanted, not the life God’s law called them to.  What they really wanted was autonomy – their rules and their ruler – but
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Children by inclination desire autonomy.  They want life their way, their rules.  Every day parents lay before their children the choice of obedience or disobedience, self-control or selfishness, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of “me.”  But there is a tension at work here because we want our children to be responsible individuals who also are vitally involved in community.  They need to learn the difference between autonomy and personal responsibility.

The difference lies primarily in orientation.  Autonomy is focused on the wants and desires of the individual where personal responsibility is focused on the needs of others.  Autonomy is rooted in pride where personal responsibility anchors itself in humility.  Autonomy is about the flesh where personal responsibility is about the spirit.

The tensions above are at work in every believer’s life and we need to be especially aware of these tensions in our children.  They are surrounded by a world that praises autonomy and rewards pride, so convincing them to choose personal responsibility and humility will sometimes be a challenge.    But we cannot leave them to the danger and misery of autonomy.

Lord, help me show my children the way of humility, self-control and a life of service.  May I reflect the peace and love of Your heart for others.  Let me guide and direct them to be Your servants and leave self-serving behind. Amen.

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