10 Practical Ways to Teach Your Children How to Love Thy Neighbor

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40

 

After reading about one of the recent tragic school shootings, I thought about all the different “solutions” everyone had to offer on how to prevent the next senseless shooting from happening.  High schoolers around the country organized March for Our Lives and the blame landed on Congress for not restricting gun regulations and allowing something like it to happen.

Personally, I’ve yet to see a gun get up, walk itself out the door, and shoot someone.  But this isn’t the point of my article.  What you never hear in the media, Fox, CNN or whoever you watch or listen to, is at the very foundation of all of these tragic, bullying, horrible shootings, opioid crisis, unwed pregnancies, abortions and skyrocketing suicides is that it all stems from a heart issue, that is, a sin issue.

We all struggle with sin.  As it says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”    Thankfully, by God’s grace, not all of us pick up guns when we have an argument with a family member, spouse or employer and shoot away.  But we all struggle with different weaknesses, different sins that we must repent of and try to change our behavior from.

As parents, our job is to equip and to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)  The first question is, what way are you training and raising up your children to go?  And secondly, how do you get them there?  Your answers to these two questions will show you the direction in which you are taking your children.

When the latest school shooting was in the news, I wondered about the second greatest commandment:  to love thy neighbor as thy self.  It’s rare to hear anyone talk about loving their neighbor, isn’t it?  When’s the last time you’ve heard someone talk about it or think about your own family?  When’s the last time you intentionally talked about loving your neighbor with your children?

Love thy neighbor?  Sounds archaic, outdated, right?  What does that even mean?  We hear about kids bullying other kids, putting it on Facebook and having no concern for their “neighbor.”  We read about kids relentless teasing and plain meanness.  There’s a callousness to kids these days.  A heartless generation is being raised.

It isn’t easy raising children according to God’s Word in our culture.  But as an old basketball coach used to say, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!”  Parents, though your job isn’t easy, it still must be done, intentionally, with a purpose, and with a vision.  Part of raising up your children is teaching them how to apply God’s Word to every area of life.

One of those areas, loving thy neighbor, is put right after loving the Lord with thy heart, soul, and mind.  Loving thy neighbor, friend, family member, bus driver, teacher, cashier, janitor, waitress, basketball coach or teammates, and so on, is one of the most important duties we have!

There are hundreds of ways to love thy neighbor.  Every family is unique with varying ages of children, abilities, and resources which means we all have different ways in which we can love our neighbors.

Here are 10 practical ways to help your family get started.  But don’t stop with these 10.  Meet together as a family around the dinner table and discuss different ways you can individually and collectively carry out God’s commandment of loving thy neighbor!

  1. Help a neighbor with yard work. There will always be elderly couples or widows who could use a hand and a young back.  Offer to rake leaves, pick up sticks or even mow someone’s yard.
  2. Write an encouraging note or thank you card. One thing everyone needs is an encouraging word!  Who doesn’t love receiving a hand-written letter?  Thank a teacher, coach, pastor, or your local garbage man.  We all need a pick me up!
  3. Pick and deliver a fresh bouquet of flowers. Flowers are guaranteed ways of brightening up someone’s day!  Grow your flowers or pick up a bouquet at your local florist shop and surprise someone.  If you want to keep it anonymous, just put on a friend or neighbor’s doorstep.
  4. Grow a garden and give away excess. It doesn’t take many tomato plants to have too many tomatoes.  If you are able, grow a few extra tomatoes, zucchini or cucumbers and give away your extras.  You may even want to give it to your local food pantry.
  5. Bake a batch of cookies. Don’t have much time?  Buy premade cookie dough and bake a batch of cookies.
  6. Provide a meal.  Maybe there’s a family that just had a baby or someone who is housebound due to sickness.  Cook dinner and deliver it to them.
  7. Invite someone over for dinner. If you have a new family in your neighborhood, invite them over for a cookout.  There may be a family in church or on your children’s soccer team that you can show hospitality too.  Don’t stress out about a clean house or elaborate meal, just open the doors to your home.
  8. Visit a local nursing home. Spend time visiting and reminiscing with the residents.  Many residents in nursing homes don’t have family members that visit.  Have your children interact with them.  If you are able, you may even want to “adopt” someone that you build a relationship with!
  9. Clean up your local park. Next time you head to the park, take a few garbage bags with.  Pick up the miscellaneous garbage that may be fluttering around.  The next family or group of kids that comes to the park will appreciate it!
  10. Be polite and respectful in your interactions with others.  We show love in many different ways.  We can volunteer and bake to show our love for our neighbor.  However, one of the most important ways of showing love is how we speak to one another.  Whoever you come into contact with, whether it be your local postman, a neighbor walking their dog, or cashier at the store, be polite and respectful in the way that you act and speak.    You smile, and kind words can make someone’s day.

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