Love Your Neighbor: 4 Easy Ways to Help Your Kids Follow Jesus’ Greatest Commandment

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Happy February! We’re kicking off a series of posts to celebrate LOVE this month. Thankfully the Bible has a lot to say about who and how we are supposed to love as Christians. As part of our Micah 6:8 Kids series last year, guest blogger Cara Davis offered some helpful ways to get your kids involved with the greatest commandments – love God and love your neighbors.

LOVE
your neighbor
your family
your friends
your enemy

Did you know Jesus summed up the entire Old and New Testaments in three points? He said:

•    The Lord is one;
•    Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength;
•    Love your neighbor as yourself.

“There is no commandment greater than these,” Jesus said in Mark 12. They’re a package deal.

If you want to boil down what to teach your children about God as they grow, this is your punch list.

But how does that break down in everyday life? These are some suggestions you can exercise as a family as you raise Micah 6:8 kids.

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1. LOVE your neighbor

Your neighbor is the “other”—anyone.

It can be a sponsored child across the globe or your actual next-door neighbor. It can be someone in need–and frankly, we’re all in need, whether it be physical goods, love, encouragement, attention or affirmation.

And your neighbor can be the “unlovable,” as writer and mom Jessica Wolstenholm points out. “Even though he was known as a sinful, tax collector, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus the day he came to town,” she says of the story found in Luke 19:1-10. “Use this story to help your child understand that unkind, unpleasant, unlovable people still want to be known and loved even though they don’t act like it. Jesus gives a wonderful example in this story of reaching out to someone who is unloved by many. He goes out of his way to reach out and Zacchaeus’ heart is changed by his love.”

Action: This week identify someone “in need” and act upon it—perhaps a new mom needs a meal prepared or a family member miles away needs a handwritten card or colored pictured. Or consider bringing coats and cold weather accessories to a nearby shelter.

2. LOVE your family

Everything starts at home.

As a parent of two young children, I know how easy it is to allow the needs and wants of the kids to outweigh the needs of the family as a unit. Part of learning to love your family is creating and maintaining balance. It’s not easy.

Talk to your kids about how we’re a team. What affects one of us affects all of us. Here are some actions suggested by Psychology Today for making your family more “we”-centered than “I”-centered.

Action:

•    Ask your children to help with real chores.

•    Ask for your kids input when weighing decisions; listen to their suggestions and preferences.

•    Try not to micromanage your spouse or your kids or the way things are done in the house. Your way is different, not necessarily better.

3. LOVE your friends

Friends are the family you choose.

You don’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends, so choose wisely. Help your child understand the importance of choosing good friends, and how to be a good friend.

I often struggle with what feedback to give my daughter when she comes home talking about a friend in class who “got her in trouble for talking” or who was mean to her on the playground or who left her out of a group. In second grade, everyone is supposed to be “friends.”

My instinct is to tell her to ignore that kid, or don’t be friends with that one or this one. But that’s not going to help her in the long run. ParentFurther.com suggests, “Be clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not, and remember that children are still learning what it means to be a friend.”

Action: Make a list of “acceptable” ways friends behave and ways they don’t. Use this exercise as a way to help your child identify behavior, such as bullying, that should be reported to a teacher or trusted adult.

4. LOVE your enemy

Perhaps the hardest of all is loving those who don’t love us back. Author and mom Lisa Strnad tackled this topic on the What’s In The Bible? blog, and offers these suggestion:

1. Don’t be enslaved by anger.

“If at all possible, do something nice for the person who is your enemy,” she writes. “Show kindness even when they have only shown you hate.”

2. Watch your words.

“Proverbs 15:1 says, ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ Speak words of encouragement when possible. If not encouragement, then at the very least don’t speak words of hate or retaliation.”

3. Pray for those who treat us badly.

“I will continue to struggle with choosing to love my enemies, and then praying for those who do harm to me,” she says. “I think it’s okay to struggle at things that don’t come easy to us.”

Action: Help your child identify someone who has been mean to them, and instruct them on how to pray for them.

Loving isn’t always easy, but that’s when it becomes action instead of feeling. In fact John’s gospel says it’s the one way people will know that we’re followers of Jesus: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

That concept may be too abstract for little ones to understand, but they may surprise you.

Any 90s kids here? dc Talk’s “Luv Is a Verb” comes to mind, and TobyMac is still preaching this timeless truth. In a Facebook post last March, he wrote: “We can speak life through not only words, but our actions. Love is a verb. This week, look for opportunity to serve someone. Doesn’t have to be something big, just an act that reflects the love and humility of Christ.”

Modeling behaviors as parents is the best way to pass them onto your kids. When you serve someone in a way that reflects the love of Christ, you’re showing your kids the Micah 6:8 way.


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Cara Davis Bio PhotoCara Davis is a content consultant and co-founder of the soon-to-launch church’d.com. The former editorial director for Relevant Media Group, her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and CNN, and she’s been quoted in USA Today and The New York Times. She lives with her husband and two girls in East Nashville where she has co-founded a nonprofit called Community PTO to support the success of local community schools.

 

 


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Check out the rest of the Raising Micah 6:8 Kids series here:

Pour Yourself Out: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Volunteering

Beyond Yes Ma’am: How to Raise Kind Kids

Cultivating Contentment in Our Kids

What’s Mine is Yours: 4 Ways to Help Children Empathize and Share

 

 

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Comment on a post
52 comments
Ajith Kumar
Ajith Kumar

Holy words than can change ur lfe vry beautiful and meaningful........i'm experiencing till a lot of gud thngs.......keep reading bible ...........!!!!!!

JamesnPhyllis Burke
JamesnPhyllis Burke

Whats in the Bible? A pathway to eternal life with you and God, May he be blessed forever!

HeraHelene
HeraHelene

Amen :) These should be done by everyone! Thank GOD :D Thank Jesus Christ :D Thank Holy Spirit!



Mario Maristela
Mario Maristela

With God and His Holy Spirit guided teachings there's no impossible for God which are perhaps impossible for men.

Faith Schellenberg
Faith Schellenberg

Had to love an 'enemy' recently! (Not really an enemy but someone I really don't like). Not easy to do, but SOOO freeing! It helped me finalize forgiveness that I'd been putting off for years! I thank God that he commanded me to do it! And I hope that helped free my "enemy" too! But teaching my kids to love people who aren't nice to them is probably he hardest of these, as its human nature to seek justification and revenge, rather than kindness and love (I teach them to think that there must be something going on in their lives to make them so mean, God tells us to be nice to them anyway, they might just need a friend) Luke 6:32-33

Cora McCarter
Cora McCarter

I raise two of them by myself there is a lot of typos messed up sorry about that I'm new to this just pray for unity appreciate it

Cora McCarter
Cora McCarter

please pray that they will all talk to each other because brother Lee love is very important to me they don't realize how hard it was for me they only think of themselves sometimes on how hard they had it boo hoo I'm so sorry for that and the one he tries to buy myself the best I could God carried me through that no doubt he gets all the glory for their future and all the things ever done is through Jesus not of their own doing amen

Bill-Patti Lee
Bill-Patti Lee

This is really good and it reinforces what our Pastor has been preaching about lately! His name is Pastor Love. - Bill L.