By Kayla Stevens
I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting on a wooden pew with the morning sun streaming through the stained-glass windows, I listened to my pastor and some friends of mine engaging in a panel discussion about what it means to love your neighbor. I wiggled uncomfortably (as you often do on wooden pews) and heard two questions that continue to echo in my mind over a year later.
- Do you love your neighbor?
My first answer comes to my mind on autopilot. Yes! Of course I love my neighbor. Jesus said this is the second most important command in all of the Bible. What kind of Christian would I be if I said I didn’t love my neighbor? Next!
- Does your neighbor know that you love him?
My actual neighbors—the people I live next to with the political bumper sticker, the moms I pass as I walk around the block. Do those people know I love them? My answer did not come as easily as I wanted.
Love in secret is not really love at all.
Our children are growing up in a culture that is polarizing, difficult to navigate, confusing, and has more hardship and suffering than we care to acknowledge. And yet, God has called us in exactly this time and in this culture, to love people. Even more, He has called us to teach our children to love: to love people who disagree with them, to love people others overlook or ignore.
At the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. “Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37 CSB)
As disciple-makers within our homes, we are called to “go and do the same”—to teach our children how to love as Jesus loves. This month, consider ways you can leverage opportunities to teach your children to identify and love people as Jesus calls us to love.
Love with humility. Oftentimes when we consider how to love people who believe differently than we do, we approach conversations as if we are standing on opposite sides of a fence. But the picture of the gospel is not people opposing and arguing with one another. That’s what the Pharisees did. The reality is we are all on the same side; we are all people in desperate need of Jesus. We need Jesus to save us, and we need Jesus to sanctify us. Recognizing our sin and our need for Jesus leads us to a posture of humility. And humility is a beautiful place for love to grow.
As you go:
- Lead your kids to look for opportunities to love others. Challenge them to identify people they know who seem difficult to love and encourage them to explain why they think this is.
- Invite them to talk about what it means to recognize their own need for Jesus. How does this help us stand on the same side of the fence?
- Discuss how we can approach other people with gentleness, remembering our own need for forgiveness and asking for God’s help to love others with the same love He has for us.
Distinguish between people and ideas. We are called to love and respect all people because they are made in the image of God. As we love people around us, help your child recognize the difference between loving a person and embracing his or her ideas. The two are not equal. We are commanded to love people and show compassion, care, and respect to everyone. At the same time, we can help our children recognize differences in what God says is true in His Word from other ideologies in our culture.
As you go:
- Watch an ad that is age-appropriate with your child and discuss the main point the advertisers want you to believe.
- Consider if the idea is true (and can be verified in Scripture) or false. What is attractive about what they want you to believe? Why?
- Guide conversations about how we can disagree with ideas that don’t align with God’s Word and still show love to people who hold those ideas.
Love with authenticity. Let your neighbors know that you love them in appropriate ways (aka: don’t be weird). No one likes to be thought of as a project, but everyone wants to be seen, known, loved, and respected. As you look for opportunities to demonstrate genuine and authentic love to others, model these moments for your children. Identify ways your family could show love and care to someone in a way that he or she would feel seen, known, and authentically loved.
As you go:
- Read the parable of the Good Samaritan as a family. Talk about what it looks like to show mercy. Invite your kids to share who they think your family can show love and mercy to this month. Identify one or two people your family can take greater steps in demonstrating love toward in the coming weeks.
- Begin praying for that person on a regular basis and asking God to give you opportunities to love him or her with humility, respect, and authenticity.
- Brainstorm different ideas with your family of how you can demonstrate love in ways that person will feel seen, known, and loved. Make a plan to show love to that person in tangible ways as a family.
Patterning God’s love is the greatest lesson we teach. We do this with authenticity and with no expectations. If we are to teach our children to love, let us be bold in our faith, gentle with our words, and kind in our actions toward others. May it be said of our families that we will “go and do the same.”
Kayla Stevens is a Content Editor for LifeWay Kids. She is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and William Carey University. Kayla lives in Nashville, Tennessee and has served in Kids ministry for over 10 years.