The challenge from my last post was to help our kids to properly love. The question that creates is how. How do we properly love? We know we are supposed to love God first and love Him most but how can we be sure that we are doing that?
John Locke clarified the philosophical principle of primary and secondary things that Plato first proposed. Locke says primary things are physical secondary things are more metaphysical. For us, as Christians, the distinction between primary things and secondary things is an important one. Not is the same sense that Locke proposed but in the sense, Christ proposed when he was asked the question what is the most important commandment. In trying to trick Jesus the religious leaders do us a great service they allowed us to see how to order our love and how to properly interact with secondary things.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The most important command isn’t to love people. It’s to love God primarily. How our love for God is seen is in how we love secondary things, people. Jesus was saying our love for Christ is primary and our love for everything else is secondary. He was also telling us how to measure our love for God. We can say we love God and there is no way for us to know for sure if we truly love God or if others truly love God. That is what makes secondary things so significant. It is in how we love secondary things in their proper way and to the appropriate degree. When we love secondary things too much we demonstrate that we don’t love God first. Loving things such as family, friends, money, and influence too much reveals the idol factory of our heart. Loving things too little produces anger, envy, and pride. When we don’t love secondary things they way that God does it reveals that we don’t know God or trust him in his love for us.
The problem in teaching kids to love we stop short and only teach them to be loving. The problem is being loving deals with secondary things. To teach kids to truly love it means teaching them to order their love by loving Christ primarily then because you know Christ who is love you will from that love appropriately love secondary things. Being a loving person is a very different thing than being known by Him who is true love. The confidence and assurance that comes from the loves in our life being rightly ordered free us to appropriate love secondary things. It is in how we love secondary things that show that we primarily love Christ.
Questions to ask ourselves about ourselves and our kids:
- What is one thing in your life that you feel defines who you are?
- What if removed from your life would cause you the most pain?
- Where do spend your time and money?
- Do you struggle with an excess of love which is greed, lust or gluttony?
- Do you struggle with a deficiency of love which is anger, envy or pride?
- Where do you turn or to what do you turn when life gets difficult?
- Do you preach the gospel to yourself every day?
In light of the current event over the past several weeks I have been thinking, and talking a lot about the state of our country and the issue of race in particular. There are so many people with opinions from both sides and hot takes all over the web. In my conversations on race, the thing I keep coming back to is the idea of the nature of love.
The one thing your kids need to know about race is that our hatred towards others races or obsession with race our or another comes primarily from an excess or deficiency of love. Augustine in his Confessions explains to us that restlessness in his heart and in the heart of every human is a result of disordered loves that we love the right things in the wrong order. We love self or others above Christ. In doing this we are incapable of loving our selves or our brother. Augustine believed that when we rightly love God primarily every other secondary love would be loved apporpraitely because we love God primarily.
Several hundred years later Dante picks up where Augustine left off and he says that there is a right order to love but there is also a proper force of love. We sin when our love is misdirected, deficient or excessive. Dantes most famous poem The Divine Comedy is most well known for its graphic depiction of hell. What people miss in the gore of hell is that the whole force and purpose of the poem is about right ordered and rightly applied love.
Serving as a family pastor for the past 6 years and having been a children’s pastor for 14 years and now I have come to see ministry to the families of a church is not a luxury but a necessity. I believe family ministry matters more than anything else the church can do and here is why.
1. A society is as strong as the families that comprise it. Aristotle wrote that the family is nature’s established association for the supply of mankind’s everyday wants. John Paul II further develops this idea.
John Paul II said the following of the link between family and society.
“The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself”
Aristotle saw the value of family without being able to see the purpose of family. The purpose of families is to show a watching world the covenant keeping love of Christ through the sacrificial love of husbands and wives for one another. It also through families that the world sees our need for a perfect father through imperfect ones.
It seems that every time we turn around there is another famous, semi-Christian famous, wanna-be-famous person sticking a skewer in the heart of Christian Orthodoxy. A couple of weeks ago the latest person to come out for the redefinition of Christian marriage was Eugene Peterson. He is also the latest person to come out and then affirm the Biblical view of marriage. I have grown to really respect Peterson over the years and I am not here to let Peterson have it. I think there was a lack of clarity in even his retraction yet I am comforted by his understanding of scripture and his years of faithful teaching. I do think this “Peterson” moment is instructive for us in a couple of ways. 1. You will be asked what you believe no matter who you are. 2. You will be asked to clarify why you believe what you believe.
Healthy things grow, is one of the things I used to say to describe something successful. I once thought that something must be healthy because it is experiencing some measure of success. I would see more families come to our church or see and organization flushing and would say: healthy things grow because of their growth I assumed a) they were a healthy organization b) their growth was a sign of God’s blessing. While this may be true in some cases overall assuming healthy things grow is not helpful at all. Here is why.