Why Teaching My Kids How to Love Has Eternal Significance

A few months ago I wrote an article for Christian Woman Magazine about how love is more choice than feeling. This verse reminded me of that idea, and made me ponder how the events of the last year or so have shown us how well we really love those around us. When it’s hard, when we don’t agree with them, when they are making it difficult to love them. How easily even Christians have taken to dismissing or canceling each other, how we’ve begun to redefine what love looks like.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6: 35, 36.

I’m reminded of the passages in Matthew where Jesus asked what benefit is it to us when we just love the people we like? And this isn’t meant to sound judgmental or legalistic—I do it too sometimes when people rub me the wrong way, when they assume things about me without even talking to me, when they dismiss me or reject me because they don’t agree with me. I’m tempted to stop caring about them, to brush THEM off. But did we ever see Jesus doing that? No, He pursued people. He opened doors for people to enter righteousness, he never closed them. It has actually been a pleasant surprise to me this year, that although I have been canceled by some, I have actually had a number of relationships improve that I would’ve considered unlikely to ever go anywhere, just because we chose to pursue each other, to practice the basic forms of love and kindness with each other.

Bryan and I had an exchange with two of our kids recently, discussing this practice of loving one another. Our middle daughter is an acts of service/quality time person—she doesn’t easily verbalize her feelings and it doesn’t come naturally for her to hug you. But she loves spending time with people she loves and making things for them, playing a game together.

Her younger brother though, has physical touch and words of affirmation as his love languages. He constantly tells her he loves her and tries to hug her. The other night she rebuffed him again and it brought him to tears.

I asked her, “don’t you love him Georgia?” She answered, “I don’t know. Sometimes I think I do and then he does something annoying and I’m not sure if I love him.”

Aha! I thought. And isn’t that what the world does? We decide whether we love someone based on our feelings of the moment, or our own interpretation, instead of considering being loving in our intentional actions and trying to understand the person who needs our love.

I explained to her, we all have moments when we are annoyed by or being annoying to another person, but that doesn’t mean the love isn’t there. The Bible actually says that love covers a multitude of sins—that it believes the best, always hopes.

Bryan then explained to her that love is also a commandment, and as Christians, we are expected to love. And if we practice loving someone, then we get better at it, and we find that the feelings come with the practice. He told her it’s like learning a new sport—we practice and practice until we are good at it. In the beginning it feels awkward, but eventually it becomes fun, we find ourselves loving the sport without effort.

So then we told her, babe, go love your brother. Show him kindness by speaking his language, and we’ll tell him to back off and give you a bit more space as well.

This is a challenge to me and to those of you still reading—the next time someone offends you, says something you don’t like, how about instead of becoming annoyed or angry, talking about them or dismissing them, pretending they don’t exist, we choose to practice loving them even if it feels awkward—ask them what their concerns are? What would be kindness or goodness to them? What are they going through and can we be praying for them? What if we tried speaking their language?

The choice to not love, to reject, to cancel, is not of God. It is not Christlike. The only thing God ever canceled was our debts when His son died on the cross. If we have the opportunity and choose to not practice Christlike love when it is difficult, what does that say about our hearts? What does that say about our respect for what Christ did for us?