By Alyssa Jones
“Just … stop. Just stop it.” I heard my own exasperated words as I spoke to my second grader, knowing they were not at all helpful to changing his behavior toward his younger sister. These were typically not major offenses—a laugh when she loses a game, a poke in passing—but enough to incite an ear-splitting shriek. Every day. I just wanted it to stop, but saying so wasn’t working.
No matter how many times I tell my own kids to be kind to one another, it’s very obvious that something within them pulls in the other direction. I know it; I fight the same urges, too.
At bedtime, I sat across from the kids and opened the Bible. After some basic Bible skills—what are the two parts of the Bible? What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments? What is the first book of the New Testament?—I began reading in Matthew 5, deliberately slowing at verses 44-48:
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“Does anything about that seem surprising to you?” I asked. I read it again.
“Yes,” my oldest said. “Love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you.”
Right?! Jesus’ command is so surprising because it’s totally the opposite of what we want to do. Usually, we’d want to be nice to people who are nice to us and be mean back to people who are mean.
“But that’s hard,” he said.
Yes. It is so, so hard. In fact, we can’t do it. Why would Jesus tell us to do something that we really can’t do? They shrugged. Jesus says there’s a better way to live, and He promises to help us. He promises to transform our hearts so that we want to love our enemies, so that we want to obey our parents, so that we want to be kind to our siblings.
Our family is developing the habit of speaking little prayers when things get hairy at home. “Jesus, help!”
Loving is hard. Obeying is hard. Jesus will help.
As parents or kids ministry leaders, we remember the gospel as we guide, teach, and pray for our children. Because of our sin, we are separated from God and powerless to save ourselves. But the good news of the gospel is that God saves us through His Son, Jesus. Salvation is a free gift to all who believe by faith. Jesus saves us and transforms us to live for His glory and our joy.
Alyssa Jones is the publishing team leader of The Gospel Project for Kids. She worships and serves in kids ministry with her husband at Refuge Franklin, a church plant outside of Nashville, Tennessee.