And the second is like it:” Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
I had just watched almost 400 teenagers passionately singing out their praises to God, raising their hands enthusiastically as they sang. Many eyes were closed, many had tears streaming down their faces as for the previous hour we had all joined together to worship, sing and praise God. The emotion, the passion, and the exuberance of these young people was indeed quite moving and as music has the power to do, it was a very emotional experience for all involved.
As the music finished I walked up to the stage as I was the featured speaker for this week-long youth conference. I had spent much time in prayer asking God to grip these young hearts and minds for Jesus Christ. I wanted to send them home changed people. As I walked to the stage, I prayed “God give me the courage and wisdom to say what must be said.”
I was handed the mic and I asked them all to bow their heads for prayer. I cried out to God to use me, to speak to each heart, and give us hearts to hear what God had to say to us. I ended my prayer, then looking straight into the eyes and hearts of my young audience I said this with passionate conviction:
“Do you want to know the real test of your Christianity and what tells me whether or not you are really on fire for God, that you mean what you sing? How did you treat your little brother and sister during the last month before you came to this conference? Oh, it’s easy to come here, hang out with your cool friends, get all pumped up with the band, and passionately sing, raise your hands in worship, and get on an emotional, spiritual high so to speak. You can think to yourself, ‘Wow, I am so on fire for God.’ But the real test is this: How do you treat your little brother and sister at home? How do you treat your mother and father at home? This tells us where we are really at. Do you love them as you love yourself?”
You could have heard a pin drop! I mean silence. I had their complete undivided attention. Every person in that room realized at that moment exactly what I was saying, exactly what it meant, and that it was absolutely the truth! They got it! God opened their eyes to see.
I believe this is the single greatest need in our families today. To love each other as we love ourselves. Are we teaching our children to love their siblings as they love themselves?
I know this: I did not want my children to be the kind of sibling I was growing up. I was a terrible tease to my siblings. Often to the point of making them cry. I hurt their feelings so many times. I did not go out of my way to be kind to them. I did not go out of my way to help them in every way I could. I did not like my little brother or sister coming into my room, or invading my space. I did not like to share my stuff freely, willingly and cheerfully. I did not love them as I loved myself. I did not care for them as I cared for myself. I did not treat them as I treated myself.
When I gave my life to Jesus Christ at 19 this was one of my greatest and deepest regrets, the terrible way I had treated my 5 younger siblings. For a brief time after I started following Jesus Christ I lived at home with my siblings. I can tell you this, God began a revolutionary change in my life and how I treated them. I came to understand that all the correct doctrine in the world is no substitute for love, for loving others. There is no substitute for genuine, Christ-like love flowing out of my life and my mouth. I started to share my car, my clothes with them, my old albums with them. I started to treat them differently. I was amazed at what God was doing in my own heart. My family felt and observed a genuine change in my life and how I treated them.
I came to the deep, lasting conviction that when I got married and started a family, that I desired with all my heart to impart to my children this great commandment of God, to love their brother and sister as they love themselves.
This in my studied opinion, and my first-hand observation over 32 years of pastoring, is one of the greatest needs in every family I have known, that children would love their closest neighbor, their siblings, as they love themselves.
We must put this great command of God back in its rightful place, at the top of our priority list. We must raise our expectations and believe it is possible to obey and apply this command of God as our standard for living and family life.
We must help our children embrace this command, understand what this command means, what it looks like, and how to live it out.
Loving their siblings as they love themselves means:
Willingly, cheerfully sharing their toys, their time, their food, their money with their brother or sister.
Treating their brother or sister with kindness.
Speaking to their brother or sister kindly and respectfully, in a way that encourages.
Eagerly helping their brother or sister in any way they can.
It means you try to include them in your games or other fun activities whenever possible.
It means you don’t hurtfully tease them, bully them, or put them down.
It means you don’t hit them.
It means you don’t call them derogatory names.
It means you don’t deliberately take their toys from them to make them cry.
It means you aren’t ashamed of them around your friends.
It means as a teenager, when you can drive, you cheerfully serve your mom and dad and drive your younger siblings to church activities, or other things that would be of genuine service to them.
It means you help them out with their school work, patiently helping them understand what may be too difficult for them.
It means when you are asked to babysit your siblings, you treat them with patience and understanding.
Fathers, mothers, let your mind imagine all the things this truly means in your home, for your children to love their siblings as they love themself. Craft a written list of your own making so you can see it in front of you on paper for yourself.
In closing, let me add this: one of the most important aspects of instilling this command in our children’s hearts, minds, and character is our living example as husband and wife. This I must admit is often the most difficult place of all. My closest neighbor is Kathy and my kids. Consistently loving Kathy as I loved myself was my single greatest life challenge. It was in this relationship I was challenged the most because there are so many conflicting emotions involved in the marriage relationship and though I failed many times, I also learned to love Kathy as I love myself in so many ways, and my children got to witness that first hand. They also got to witness my failures in this and how I dealt with those failures, how I went out of my way to right the wrong I had done. My prime objective was always to love, love, love my wife and children as I love myself.
May God give us all the determination and commitment to make this great commandment our very way of life at home!