Love is not optional. As we discussed last week, it is commanded. It is commanded by God, and it is commanded by Jesus. We are to love God with our whole lives, and we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (Deut 6:4; Matt 22:34-38) . This is absolutely the opposite of human nature.
I have firsthand knowledge of human nature…being a human and all. I was born not knowing how to put anything, or anyone, ahead of me. I figured I was just a little short in the selfless department, but that my other *amazing* qualities would make up for it. As I have journeyed along, the Lord has taught me, inch by inch, that I can do hard things. Y’all know that growth can be painful, right?
How do you teach a child?
First, to show her how to do something new, you have to demonstrate it, be a good example: God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
You should also explain your example in words she can understand (specific details are helpful here): The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him (Psalm 103:8-11).
Still, foreign concepts can be hard to grasp. It is good to explain this in a very logical, careful manner: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor 13:4-7).
Again, be as clear as possible, so as to avoid confusion: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).
Too bad. You know how children are…sometimes she will flat out refuse to try. She doesn’t like new things…especially when they are difficult. She craves the familiar, the accessible, the achievable. So be consistent and firm, from the very beginning, let her choose her consequences: I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days (Deut 30:19-20a).
Ah, motivation! But your child can’t reproduce the behavior, not immediately, not with any degree of finesse. First attempts (and many more afterward) will be unimpressive. You must encourage her to keep trying. And you have be willing to to start the whole thing over, showing her how it is done, and giving her a new chance to learn: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Learning new things takes humility.
It can be hu-mi-liat-ing to fall on your face. And it can stick in your craw, to have to do an old thing, in a new way. So we must be thankful for two things:
- God makes our heart able to do this new, hard thing. He does the work: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps 51:10). And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26). Jesus said: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:26).
- God is good to us. Obeying Him has so many rewards. He is kind like that. It would be so much more difficult if he required obedience, and gave no reward. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11). As we have learned by studying Integrity, righteousness yields peace, producing stability and the feeling of wholeness — all this, from being right with God. From being in right relationship.