What our children teach us about loving our neighbor.

In the milieu of parenting I missed some subtle hints of who I was really dealing with. It wasn’t until I started dealing with teenagers that things became clear. I was blinded by the façade of they are our kids and boy aren’t they cute. Sometime from junior high on it changed. Cute went out the door, drama entered, and we were forever changed. I don’t think I really signed up for that?

I enjoy a nice weekend with our married daughter and her husband. We enjoy their beautiful apartment, seeing the sights, and hearing tales of their new life together. They regale us with stories of drinking mimosa’s at breakfast, how eight Bloody Mary’s didn’t really give them a buzz, but helped them sleep all Sunday afternoon. We hear of how some friends snuck something potent into their glasses and how they didn’t wake up until the next day around 4 p.m. We watch them spend heavily, save little, forsake their upbringing, and do it all with a smile. We nod and think wow I have a lot to pray about. Nice visit.

Our son tells us he isn’t in the mood to talk because he has a bad hangover. Ok, sure. Let’s talk when you “feel” better.

Our daughter walks in the room with news (this is a true story and stuff like this happens on a bi-weekly basis) and announces she wants to go to California with a friend for the summer so they can be bar b_tches (add an i). We sat in silence.

Our children tell us things that shock us, act as if they were raised with a pack of wolves and, generally make foolish decisions.

They are late to work, cuss out a friend, gossip, never go to church, break into private property, drink to excess, are friends with people who do drugs, and generally selfish people. My children. The people whom I gave birth to, worshipped, cherished, and basically gave a good portion of my life to.

What our children teach us about loving our neighbor.

So how do we love those who aren’t like us, don’t follow God in the way we think they should, and who do things we don’t approve of? How do we love our neighbor, or our children, when they seem to be on a path we don’t approve of, that God disapproves of, and that we want to keep off of Face book because that is the real test isn’t it? If it’s not Face book worthy we should keep it quiet.

1. We eat with them.
2. We spend time with them.
3. We call them.
4. We cook for them.
5. We talk well of them.
6. We pray for them.
7. We love, cry, and hurt for them.
8. We forgive them.
9. We get to know them.
10. We display our faith to them.

We don’t:

1. Adopt their lifestyle.
2. Cut off our relationship with them.
3. Scold them.
4. Don’t throw Christianity in their face.
5. Talk bad about them.
6. De-friend them on Face book (hide their feed if it’s bad).
7. Attack them.
8. Stop smiling.
9. Lose hope.
10. Stop doing for others what we ourselves want done.

Jesus instructs us to come to where they are, have compassion on them, bind their wounds, and ensure they are cared for. Loving our neighbor looks a lot like loving our children and family and both require us to look beyond the things we don’t like and approve of and look to Christ. When we were still sinners He died for us so we can in turn die to self and love others as we are loved.

For seven years I had the privilege of helping some of the most down and out men and women in our community. They spoke in ways that were offensive and shared details of their lives that were shocking. It wasn’t nice and neat. It was real and it was the opportunity of a life time.

I learned to grin no matter what I heard. I learned not to react and take everything personal. I learned to engage more when I wanted to run and to listen better when I wanted to close off. I learned to love and you know why? Because I have been greatly loved.

If you have ever loved a family member you understand how to love your neighbor. God, “use me, use us, to reach the world and when we do may you be glorified”.

Marcy Pedersen


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