Stories possess a power of persuasion that direct answers struggle to convey. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan tells David a story in order to cause David to admit his sin.
This past Sunday, one of the seventh grade girls in our Sunday School class repeatedly argued that she only has to respect the people who give her respect first.
Rather than confront the issue head on, I told her this story.
“Union University held cheer camp last week. Two of my coworkers brought their daughters. One is five and one is four. When cheer camp ended at lunch, these girls would spend the rest of the day in our office. Their parents let them stay in a back office together under one restriction – that the only reason they could leave that room was to go to the bathroom.
But before long, the four-year-old would sneak out of the room and crawl up to the secretaries. She would giggle and laugh and try to talk with them as they were on the phone. Then the five-year old would follow and roll on the floor with the younger girl. Both were promptly sent back by one of the mothers; they were in big trouble. The four-year-old cried because she knew she had been bad. The five-year-old cried, not because she knew she had disobeyed, but because, as she said, it was “unfair.” After all, the other girl had left first; she was merely following.”
So I turned to our seventh grader and asked, “Which of the girls obeyed the rules?”
“Neither.” She replied.
“Should the five-year old have been punished, even though she was just following the four-year-old?” I asked.
“Of course. She was told to stay in the room and she left.”
“How does this apply to our conversation about respect?”
She sighed, “I get it. Okay? I have to be responsible for me.”
Our obedience is not contigent upon other people’s obedience. When God tells us to obey, He expects us to obey even if everyone around us is doing the opposite.