As Christian parents, our plates are full of responsibilities: training and teaching our children, nurturing them, pointing their little hearts and minds to Christ in all things, let alone keeping them clothed, fed, and alive by the end of each day! What if I told you there was one not-so-small detail you, like so many of us, might be leaving out?
Jesus gives us our greatest commandments, which should be the foundation of the Christian life, in Matthew 22: “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Even on our worst days, we return to the Lord in our hearts and seek his grace, and our children see and model this. Yet, in the age of active shooter drills in schools, increasing acceptance of “gender fluidity” and other societal dangers from which we want to insulate our precious cargo, how are we putting the second-greatest commandment into practice? How are we loving our neighbor like Jesus, and teaching our kids to do the same?
Author Lisa Scandrette grew up in a family that beautifully modeled selfless hospitality. “The walls were elastic,” she shared with Christianity Today, referring to countless Bible studies in her home, foster children that joined their family, and other community engagements her family did together. Now, as a mom of three, Lisa sees this approach as a permanent lifestyle: “We have the opportunity to model the way of love to our kids. Part of the work we do as a family is to encourage each other to extend the sort of belonging we hope to cultivate to the people around us.”
Popping The Bubble
Lindsy Wallace, a missionary with InnerCHANGE, which ministers to the poorest, most vulnerable people in urban areas, notices that Christian culture can often pressure us to raise our children in a protective bubble. Church attendance, Christian schools and friends, and Bible stories are great, but they don’t provide our families with the lived experience of a life that looks like Jesus. “It’s difficult to imagine how a deep love for Jesus and neighbor will develop in our children if all they have is book knowledge of Jesus but have never seen him in the eyes of the poor and have never witnessed their parents visiting him in prison,” Wallace says, referring to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:35–36.
Kathy Khang, author of Raise Your Voice, encourages us to live out and model loving our neighbor for our kids to imitate, just as we do with loving God. “My kids are 22, 18, and 16, and I am still learning about helping them find their own voice,” she says. “I try to model living out my values in ways they can integrate into their own lives as they enter into adulthood: recycle, vote, donate blood, volunteer, advocate, protest with your feet and your budget, but I have to remember they have their own interests, concerns, and skills.”
When we saturate our lives with God’s love for the lost sheep in an active and intentional way, our children, at any age, can learn from us. They can learn how loving God translates to loving our neighbors, and hold both commandments in their hearts as they grow.
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