Love is a formidable force, an essential human need, but so hard to explain. And yet it’s something every good parent aspires to do well. If you’re here to learn more about how to love your kids like Jesus, you’ve come to the right place.
If you suspect love is more than just a feeling, you’re right. Loving well takes understanding and intention.
As parents, it’s important not to let your feelings lead your love. If you do, you risk not loving well. God is love and has given us instructions on how to love well. Let’s look at what He has to say about it below.
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Don’t feel at all bad if you can’t easily define perfect love in a few words. There are many songs begging the question, “What is love?” – such as the popular 90’s song by Haddaway. And if you’re older, then there’s the Foreigner song, “I wanna know what love is.”
Millennial’s …apparently solved it? According to Rhianna’s, “We Found Love”, it was in a hopeless place. I’m going to have to disagree on this one though. Love is in a place filled with hope.
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 has also been described as a process that happens to you, such as “falling in love” (or out of it). Some speak of love as a person, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” And some speak of love as something to take hold of, like a possession. “All you need is love.”
What The Bible Says About Love
There are many words in the Bible that are translated in English as “love,” but each has a more specific meaning in Greek, the original language of the Bible. The Greek word 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 love.
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).
Perhaps the best argument for the un-graspable nature of love is that God is love and all love comes from God. God is bigger than we can imagine, and so love might also be.
“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 doesn’t call names or fixate on flaws. Love sees the potential for the best and hopes for the best in others. Love sees the overlooked, the sad, the broken and picks them. It holds them and brings healing and wholeness.
Love drives out fear.
Love doesn’t use fear in an attempt to control or coerce. Love protects the other and helps calm fears. Love brings peace and calm to chaos, as L.R. Knost points out in this beautiful observation.
“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).
Sacrificial love means choosing to give up something for the sake of someone else’s betterment. It means getting up in the middle of the night when you are so very tired to feed or comfort a hungry baby. It means cleaning up messes of poop, vomit, and everything else little ones produce or get into.
Love is a choice.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 15:12, WEB).
You aren’t at the whims of your mood or feelings in a moment. You can choose love by being patient when you are angry. You can choose love by being kind when the other doesn’t deserve it. You can choose to be thoughtful when you feel forgotten about. Choosing to love despite circumstance is what makes agape love unconditional.
How To 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 its 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 no 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 no 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 your kids 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.
Unconditional Love Holds 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 To Make Your 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 kids 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 kids and others.
On Whether You Should Love Your Spouse or Your 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. And honestly, I don’t think the kind of love we are instructed to give is to be portioned out in certain amounts to some more than others.
There are only two levels of love I see 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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