Teaching Kids: Love

You know those social media status surveys where you’re supposed to ask your young child to answer questions and write down whatever they respond? It’s super cute to ask your three or four-year-old when their answers may be sweet or silly or entirely random. While looking at one of these surveys, I asked my then three-year-old how he knew I loved him. He said that he knew I loved him because I gave him hugs and got him snacks. After another moment, he turned to me and asked, “Mama, what is Love?”

Such an innocent question and you know what? I struggled to answer it! Over the years I have gotten better at defining words or ideas to my inquisitive youngsters, but sometimes they really stump me. For example, I still don’t understand how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly so how can I explain it to them? You wouldn’t think that love would be difficult to define though.

So how do we teach our children to understand love and how to show love? If I do not teach my children to love then what does it matter if they know their ABC’s or that there are 12 inches in a foot? What even is love?

Let’s start at the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1, 4-5) John also tells us, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8). What better foundation to set for our children than that God is love? Every aspect of Him is love. Every attribute of His is love. So in teaching our children about love, let us begin at the beginning and teach them about God.

Does this make answering the question, “What is love?” any easier? No. In Ephesians 3:17-19 we read, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (NIV) So God is love, but how can we explain this love to our children if it surpasses knowledge? How can we explain the widest, longest, highest, and deepest love imaginable? What can compare to this great love of Christ to paint even the smallest picture in the minds of our little ones? How can we teach them something we ourselves do not understand?

Paul didn’t leave us hanging. He was not only instructive in his letters to the churches, but also the Lord spoke through him to provide guidance for Christian living. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2) Walk in love. Live out the love of God as a daily self sacrifice. Walk in the Spirit of God, who is within you. God is love. Walk in love. 

You may think I am simplifying this too much. What if we are over complicating things? What if that is why the concept of love seems so confusing and difficult to explain? Maybe instead of trying to explain to my child that love is caring for others, creating a safe environment, or putting the needs of others before our own; I should be trying to explain to my child that love is God-who is patient even when we make mistakes, love is God- who is kind and gentle even when we are rude and arrogant, and love is God- who never fails even when faced with impossible situations. When we teach our children about God, we give them a frame of reference for everything else. 

This week we honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Love drives out hate. Light drives out darkness. God is love and Jesus is the light of the world. As we read earlier, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) To teach our children love, we must teach them about God. To teach our children love, we must disciple their hearts to grow in Christlikeness. To teach our children love, we must display a life devoted to Spirit-led living. The Spirit of the Lord is within us. The Light of the World is within us. When we grow in Christlikeness then the fruit of His Spirit will be evident in our lives. We are then able to walk in love and be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

There are many practical ways we can teach our children about love (head over to Instagram this week for a few small examples), but if we do not first teach them that God is love then everything else pales in comparison. They cannot truly know love unless they know God.

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