It’s the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12). It’s the second-greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). But what does it really mean to love one’s neighbor, as Christ would have us love? This is probably one of the most important topics for parents to discuss with their children and be sure they understand, in the light of our society’s conflicting views of love. For week one, ask the first question over an unhurried meal. Let the children think about it and then offer their own answers. The children should talk more than the parents. Throughout the week, offer the different reasons highlighted and let the children discuss them. (Parents, read through the relevant Bible passages in advance.) Challenge the children to look up other verses addressing the question. Do the same for the following questions each week of the month.
• Why should we love our neighbor? (1 John 4:4-21, 1 Corinthians 13)
• Jesus says it is one of the greatest commandments.
• God created us to live in relationships of love, with Him and each other.
• Every person is created with a need to love and be loved; God expects us to help fulfill those needs in our work for His Kingdom.
• Love is at the root of dealing with all the problems the devil has introduced into the world.
• Human society, as a part of God’s creation, cannot long survive without employing the principles of His love.
• How does Jesus want us to love our neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)
• We are to love our neighbor as ourselves — in other words, put what they need first.
• Loving our neighbor is shown in actions of helpfulness and kindness, as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
• Love is giving to others rather than thinking of what we can get from them
• What can we do to grow in loving our neighbors? (John 15:5-17, Colossians 3:1-15)
• Ask Jesus to fill you with His love — we can never love like Him without His help!
• Listen to what people say and really get to know them.
• Always remember that the most important thing about any person is that God created them and loves them and wants them to live forever — as His children, we are to look at people from the same viewpoint.
• Pray for others.
• Think about other people as much as about yourself, helping others instead of always focusing on only your own concerns.
• Why is love of our neighbor so important? (Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 7:36-47, John 13:34-35)
• We can only understand God’s love in the context of what we experience here on earth: genuine acts of love between human beings give us an example and analogy of what God’s love is like.
• After God’s Own Love, nothing makes life so wonderful and worthwhile as love between human beings, especially when we are enduring trials
• “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35): loving others, even when we are not loved in return, helps us to grow in virtue and Christlikeness and the true joy that comes with drawing closer to Christ.
Dr. Alex Chediak has watched too many college students flounder over these issues and many others. Sadly, 45 percent of those who start off at a four-year college will not complete their degree. At a time when college has never been more expensive, too many of our children are failing. What makes the difference? Character, a strong faith, and a willingness to delay gratification. And where is that learned? Ideally, at home.
In this book, Alex will give you everything you need to help your teens not only successfully navigate the college years but also real life. Alex covers all the hot-button issues: dating, premarital sex, roommates, grades, career guidance, God, and much more. You won’t want to be without this essential survival manual for college.
Polly: Hello, Con; how’s everything?
Con: Oh, all right, Polly; I guess.
Pol: What’s wrong?
Con: Well, that girl in my class—you know who I mean; she’s been causing me trouble again. It’s so hard! I—I don’t see how it’s possible for me to love her, the way Jesus says I should, and it makes me feel guilty on top of how embarrassed and angry she makes me by her behavior. How can I possibly ever get along with her? I simply can’t imagine it.
Pol: Perhaps you won’t ever “get along” with her, as you say. She would have to have a real heart change to get along properly with anybody nice. Of course, Jesus can arrange that for her; but she has to let Him. And you can’t control when or whether that will ever happen. Don’t worry about it.
Con: But I can’t help worrying. If I can’t love her, does that mean I’ve failed as a follower of Jesus?
Pol: Well, what makes you so sure you don’t love her? Just because you don’t like her…
Con: I heartily dislike her!
Pol: Okay, I understand how you feel. But you don’t have to like someone at all in order to love them.
Con: Wait a minute; I’m confused. I’ve always thought that liking someone was part of loving them: that liking was the first step, and then it might become love if something more—I’m not sure what—was added on top of it. Come to think of it, Polly, I’m not sure I really understand what “love” means at all, in a general sense. I know what I mean when I say I love my mother—I can give concrete examples. But on the whole, love seems such a vague concept.
Pol: Well, it gets treated like a very vague concept in our society today, I will grant you that. I think the biggest problem is that the main focus has shifted from “loving our neighbor” particularly, to a vague “love of humanity” in general. And, quite frankly, love is not something we do “in general”; loving someone is always particular, individual, and practical. The only way to love all of humanity is to love each one of them as an individual, and that requires far too much work and “thinking things through” to make it a popular concept in our modern world.
Con: I guess. I never thought about it that way before. But if love doesn’t mean just general liking and tolerance, hyped-up with sentimentality, what does it mean? What do I have to do in order to love someone, really?
Pol: Let’s start with the Bible — the best place to start. Jesus says we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39). To be perfectly honest with you, Connie, I used to have trouble with that definition myself. I figured that with proper Christlike love, we should really love our neighbor more than we love ourselves, always put their concerns before our own. And that’s quite true, of course — other passages of Scripture like the Parable of the Good Samaritan and all the verses about serving others, especially Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, make that very clear — but there is a particular aspect about the way we love ourselves that Jesus wants us to apply to our love for other people; it was C.S. Lewis who clarified that for me.
Con: What did he have to say about that?
Pol: That the principles of the love we feel toward our neighbor must be the same ones that we apply to ourselves. It’s a long quote, but worth remembering; and I think I’ve got it here for you correctly:
For a long time I used to think this quite a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what the man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life—namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself… Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find I was the sort of man who did these things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them… But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again…1
Con: So, perhaps the best way I can approach trying to love the people who hurt me is by hoping they will start turning into heavenly creatures? Right now, I don’t feel as though I wanted to meet that girl in Heaven — if I really loved her as Jesus loves her, I would think and hope about the kind of person she could become, that I would want to meet in Heaven, and treat her that way?
Pol: Exactly. As C.S. Lewis explained, we must try to feel even about an enemy as we feel about ourselves —“to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him or saying he is nice when he is not. I admit that this means loving people that have nothing loveable about them. But then, has oneself anything loveable about it? You love it simply because it is yourself. God intends us to love all selves in the same way and for the same reason…”2
Ask your children: What do you think about Polly’s answers to Con’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give, if someone asked them a question similar to the ones Con asked.
Prayer of the Month
PLEASE GIVE ME A HEART TO LOVE OTHERS
The prayer for this month is mostly a meditation on 1 Corinthians 13, asking Jesus to guide us into having the sort of love described in this passage of Scripture.
In Jesus’ Name,
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