Love is a formidable force, an essential human need, and yet so hard to explain. It’s something every good parent aspires to do well. Below we’ll consider how to love your children like Jesus.
As parents, it’s important not to let our feelings lead our love. If you do, you are missing out on the fullness of what it means to love. So we will also explore what God’s definition of love looks like.
What is love?
If this question brings a vision of Will Ferrell and Chris Cattan bobbing their heads to the 90’s Haddaway song , you might be a Xennial. Whether you’re familiar or not, here’s what I’m talking about.
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Ok, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss what love is. (And yes, gen X’ers, I thought of the Foreigner song, “I wanna know what love is” too). Suffice it to say, songs, movies, even good ol’ google struggle to define love and so do I.
Love is often described as a strong feeling of affection or preference for something or someone. It’s often described as a process that happens to you – “falling in love” (or out of it). It is described as a person – “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love has also been described as a possession “All you need is love.”
What does the Bible say about love?
There are a great many verses on love and even many words describing love in the Bible. The Greek word for love used to describe God’s love for us and the love we are commanded to give is agapé. Below are a few verses to help you understand agapé.
God is love.
“We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him” (I John 4:16, WEB).
“Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn’t know us, because it didn’t know him” (I John 3:1, WEB).
Love drives out fear.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:10).
Love is a choice.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 15:12, WEB).
How do I show unconditional love?
Jesus used the Greek word agapé when instructing us to love. While agapé has been translated by some as “unconditional love,” that’s not the fullness of it’s meaning. Agapé is unconditional in that it is a love that originates by the choice of the giver, not on a condition of the receiver. Agape love does not change, even if the recipient changes.
To love unconditionally is to decide to love someone regardless of any circumstances about them and to keep loving them now matter what they do. Decisions and feelings are not the fullness of love, however. “Love does” as Bob Goff says, it acts."To love unconditionally is to decide to love someone regardless of any circumstances about them and to keep loving them now matter what they do." #love #parenting Click To Tweet
How to show love to your child
So how do you show your unconditional love? Treat them in a manner consistent with the descriptions of love in Scripture. The most famous description of love is of course, I Corinthians 13:4-7,
“Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Be patient, kind, humble, and willing to not have things go your way. Don’t let their behavior provoke you to act inappropriately. Don’t keep track of their mistakes.
Examples of showing love to your child
Protecting your child is one of the important ways to show your child love. Protecting them includes dressing them appropriately for the weather so they don’t get sick. It means keeping a watchful eye while they’re at the playground so they don’t fall. It means saying no letting them watch inappropriate videos online.
Nourishing your child is another way to show love. It means providing healthy food. Building up your whole child also includes nourishing his soul with God’s word and feeding her brain with knowledge.
Does unconditional love have boundaries?
Just because you love unconditionally, doesn’t mean you can’t have boundaries. In fact, holding your child to a standard and having boundaries is a loving part of parenting.
To love someone is to have their best interests at heart in all that you do. It is not loving allow your child to touch a hot surface, wander off into the street, or talk online with strangers. Dangerous and unhealthy activities need to be reigned in to protect and grow your child in healthy ways.
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How do I make my child feel loved?
My son recently informed me that I do not love him as much as his friend’s mom loves his friend, “because she let’s him have whatever he wants.” I let him know that it is because I love him that I don’t let him have whatever he wants and that his friend’s mom probably says “no” more than he sees.
As much as we might feel and act loving towards our children we can’t “make” them feel… anything. A great phrase I love to use for helping us understand how our actions impact each other’s feeling is,
“When you ______, I feel_________.”
If your child is verbal you can ask, “What do I do or say that makes you feel loved?” Another great tool to help you demonstrate love in a way your child receives it is the book The Five Love Languages of Children.
Either way you look at it, learning how to love your child in a way that they can receive it requires being a student of your child. Ask, listen, observe and adjust your words an actions accordingly.
Do loving things that are within the bounds of what’s protective and nourishing. Sorry, son, giving you candy whenever you want it is not how I am going to show that I love you.
The Greatest Love is Sacrificial
As Christians, Jesus is our example for how to do all things, including how to love well. God chose to love us sacrificially, regardless of our faults and failures through the sacrifice of Christ.
“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! ” (Romans 5:8, HCSB).
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (I John 3:16).
Loving our children means sacrificing for them. It means giving up our egos, our ambitions, and yes even our lives for them.
There are many little ways we can sacrificially love on a daily basis. For me, it means biting my tongue and holding my ground to protect and nourish him when my son complains about my not letting him have candy. It means not getting my nails done, so we can afford to sign my daughter up for volleyball. It means humbly walking out the door this morning with wild hair, because the time I had for doing my hair was taken up by the needs of my toddler.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Don’t get me wrong. I fail all the time. I indulge, insist on my own way, and react poorly every day. That’s why I also need to love myself in order to love well.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
When I am feeling nourished, protected, and care for, it’s easier for me to choose the same. And a parent, that means I must carve time for nourishing myself in the Word or going for a walk to relieve stress. I need to draw from the well of Love Himself – God – so that I can overflow with love to my children and others.
Should you love your spouse or child more?
There’s a teaching out there floating around that Christian wives should love their husbands more than their children. I see no evidence for this in the Bible.
There are only two levels of love in Scripture “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, WEB), and “love your neighbor as yourself” (vs 31).
In my opinion, this is the only valid comparison of who to love most. If several people you love are at odds, I think a more valuable question to ask is what choice will benefit the health & well-being of the other most?
For example, if your husband asks you to bring him a cup of milk, but your child fell down and is bleeding – you choose to care for the child, because their well-being is most at stake. On the other hand, if your child wants to stay out at a party late, but your husband wants to go home because he needs to get up early in the morning, you go home to support the well-being of your husband. The choice is between well-being and indulgence, not between two people.
Some Final Thoughts on How to Love Your Children Like Jesus
To love your child like Jesus doesn’t depend on how you feel. It’s OK if you don’t like or even can’t stand your child right now. Loving them is about what you choose to do for their well-being.
God’s love is so much more than I can grasp, much less put into words. If you want to know how to love your children like Jesus, the most useful thing you can do is draw near to Jesus.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God” (I John 4:8).
He will show you perfect love and will pour out love through you. He has revealed himself in Jesus who demonstrated and taught us how to love one another.
Finally, I hope that you may have what Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:17-19
“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
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