I am thankful that God did not give up on me. I did not obey at His first request, but in patience, God pursued me with His unconditional love. I did not grow up following Christ. Though there was separation, He did not surrender His pursuit of me and for me. It was His constant pursuit of me that eventually brought me to the point when I surrendered my life to Him as a senior in high school.
What drew me to God was not rules, but His gracious invitation for a relationship. It was His love, in light of His law that I had broken, that drew me to love Him in response. The gospel informs me that my security in Christ as a son or daughter is based on Jesus’ performance, not my own. It is in the context of this loving relationship that I desire to live in obedience. Rules may change behavior, but they cannot change the heart. This is why our children need first and foremost a relationship and not just a list of rules. They need our love before they need our law. So how can our love reach the heart of our child?
Here are three ways our love is lived out in the lives of our children:
1. Love listens Most moms are busy. Sometimes we feel so busy that discipline seems like a distraction. But love is willing to set aside the next task, and listen. Listen for what is coming out of your child’s heart. What are they feeling? What are they saying? Our attentive love shows we are doing more than just trying to change their actions; we are trying to understand their hearts.
2. Love looks at why a child misbehaved In Luke 6, Jesus taught that what comes out of the mouth is really a window into the heart. Love takes the time to discern what is really motivating your child’s behavior. Did they lie because they want acceptance? Did they cheat or cut corners because they enjoy comfort? Behind every action is a heart motivated or ruled by something. Love takes the time to navigate those turbulent waters of the heart.
3. Love spurs children on without squashing them in the process Love encourages, inspires, casts a vision for doing better. Discipline and correction without love crushes the spirit. Your safe and sincere love motivates your child to not only do better but be better. It is God’s love that motivates our obedience to love Him back.
One thing we tell our children often is this: “I will always love you. Nothing you ever do will make me stop loving you.” This simple phrase reminds me of His love for me. Instead of harsh discipline that breaks their spirit, let’s remember how our Father lovingly corrects us and reminds us of His unconditional love. Let us do the same for those He has entrusted to us. God never gives up on us and we must never give up on them.