If someone asked you “what is the most important thing that someone could possibly do,” what would your answer be?
Jesus answer in Mark 12:30 is “love…God”.
Love is one of the most important words in the Bible, and appears roughly eight hundred times in the Old and New Testaments. In our culture, though, it is one of the most misunderstood and misused words.
Love is relational
Simply put, when the Bible says that God is love it means that He is relational. God wants a relationship with you. This is why He speaks to us through Scripture, and listens to us through prayer. Furthermore, God made us like him, in a limited sense, to be in loving relationship with Him and others, starting with what Jesus calls our “neighbor”. Therefore, our loving relationships are supposed to start at home with our family members sleeping in the rooms next to ours.
Here’s how God explains it in Genesis 1:26, “…God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Did you catch the “our” language? Again, this is the Bible’s way of letting us know about the Trinity, that there is “one” God made up of the three persons Father, Son, and Spirit. It’s important to remember that our God is ALL ABOUT loving relationships. This is not merely what God does, this is how God is!
Our God is a loving and relational God, and He made us to be loving and relational people. We are literally hand made and hard wired for loving relationships. We are not supposed to live life alone. In fact, while the world was still perfect and before sin occurred, God said it was “not good” for us to be “alone” in Genesis 2:18. Today, in our sin infected and corrupted world, our need for loving relationship is even greater.
Putting on oxygen masks
If you have ever flown on an airplane, you have likely heard the safety speech that is given at the beginning of the flight. We are told that in case of an emergency oxygen masks will drop. The attendant tells us to put our own mask on first before we put the mask on a child with us. This allows us to be healthy and alert when caring for the child.
Life is like a flight. Jesus is our captain. Our relationship with Him is our proverbial oxygen mask. On Jesus Airlines, when the storms hit and lightning strikes, there will be times of turbulence until we land in His Kingdom. Both parents and children need to have their mask on so they can stay alive and alert. In order for this to happen, parents (and other caregivers) have to put their mask on first. If we are not in a healthy, life-sustaining relationship with God where the Holy Spirit puts his life-giving nourishment into our soul, then we will not be able to care for the child sitting on the flight next to us. This is what Jesus means in Mark 12:28-31 saying that we need to first “love God” and then second “love neighbor”.
Following the leader
What Jesus is teaching is a lot like a popular kids’ game. At some point, most kids play a game called “follow the leader”.
Do you remember playing this game?
In this game, someone is designated as the leader, and everyone else is a follower. The follower is supposed to follow the leader – go where they go, say what they say, and do what they do.
Parenting is basically a game of follow the leader.
First, the parents are to follow God their Father. Thankfully, much of what we need to learn about parenting comes by being God’s child. We learn how to be parents to our own children as we seek to treat our kids the way our perfect Dad has treated us, His kids.
Second, the parents are to help their children follow them as they follow God. This is the point of parenting – our ultimate goal must be that our children would grow to love and follow God. This simple refrain is repeated on a multitude of occasions throughout Scripture, where it says that a particular generation worshiped the God of their fathers, because God intends for children to worship the same God as their parent(s).
For example, Christians worship the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those are three generations of family members. As a Christian parent, we should labor to see our children (and grandchildren) worship the same God we do. To pursue that goal, we must worship that God first.
Proverbs 20:7 says it this way, “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” The big idea is that a parent is a leader, and if they want their kids to walk toward the Lord then they need to lead the way.
Practically, this means such things as:
• Your children will learn a lot about about praying by hearing you pray.
• Your children will learn a lot about repentance by seeing you repent.
• Your children will learn a lot about forgiveness by witnessing you forgive.
• Your children will learn about trusting God by watching you trust God.
• Your children will learn a lot about church by going to church with you.
• Your children will learn a lot about right and wrong through your instruction.
• Your children will learn a lot about the Bible by hearing you read it to them before they are old enough to read it for themselves.
How are you doing at following God? How are you doing at leading your child? How is your child doing at following you and God?
The soul needs love
When you are a kid in school, teachers tell you that you need food, water, air, and shelter to live. But, you also need love. Without love, we literally die.
Some years ago, there were beautiful medical facilities built to house newborn orphan children who did not have parents. The children were given a clean environment, sunlight, healthy food, fresh water, a comfortable bed, and fun toys. Yet, the children grew sick and died in staggering numbers. The doctors did research, and could not figure out why the healthy children were dying. An outside group was brought in to research the crisis.
Can you guess what they concluded?
The children needed to be loved. The children needed to be held, coddled, and spoken to multiple times every day. Without love, children literally die. God made us for loving relationship and human connection. Knowing this, God who made us and knows what we need says over and over in the Bible, in places like 1 John 4:21, “whoever loves God must also love”.
It’s a little word with big implications.
When you tell someone you love them, and mean it from the heart, it reveals that something profound and priceless has happened in your relationship. When Grace and I decided that we not only loved one another, but that we would say “I love you”, then our relationship would never be the same.
Christianity is about many things, but one of the most important things is love. This is why Jesus says in Mark 12:28-31 that it is “most important” to “love”. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 we are told, that the “greatest” thing in all the world “is love”. Love is sometimes what you feel, sometimes what you say, but always what you do. Love is ultimately shown forth in action. True love is unselfish, and does what is in the best interest of the beloved. This results in acts of service and sacrifice, much like Jesus Christ who served us by sacrificing His own life as the greatest act of love the world will ever know.
How are you doing at loving your child in word and deed? How can you love your child better? How can you help your child to love God and others?
This blog series is based upon a five-part sermon series called Parenting on Point that you can listen to for free at markdriscoll.org