The description of love in I Corinthians 13:4-8 provides a helpful guide for parents. Think about it this way: God is love, therefore, to be godly is to live out the qualities of love. Conversely, if you exchanged the word “love” for “lust,” it would negate each of the qualities and describe an ungodly life.
Lust is impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, etc…. When your children seem more controlled by lust (or the opposite of love), it’s time for you as parents to take inventory on your approach to parenting. Some parents unknowingly encourage behaviors that contradict love.
Take a moment to visit the qualities of love in the context of parenting. Let me walk you through a few of them.
Love is patient and kind. It may be natural for children to be impatient but it must be corrected to save them from many bad decisions. Are your children quick to demand things from you? Do you jump when they whine or demand from you? If you do, you’re teaching them to violate true love on many levels.
The sober truth is that you’re training them toward ungodly characteristics even if you think you’re being an example of servanthood. You’re the parent, not their servant!
Some children are particularly unkind. This too must be confronted and disciplined. When your children lie about others or do things to try to get others in trouble, they must be firmly corrected. These are acts of betrayal of true love and godliness. They are also violations of kindness.
Do your children show signs of being envious? Do they resent others who do well or excel them? Do they laugh at the mistakes or failures of others? Do they boast about themselves? Are they proud and rude – interrupting you when you’re talking to others? Do you see signs that they are self-seeking? Do they go out of their way to be the center of attention and sulk when they are not? Are they easily angered — agitated by people who get in their way? Do they keep records of wrongs? Do they repeatedly refer to the wrongs others have done against them?
As parents, do you tend to display these behaviors? Envy? Boasting? Proud? Rude? Self-seeking? Easily angered? Unforgiving? Holding grudges? Parents sometimes model these behaviors and attitudes in more “refined” ways.
Since behavior is more easily caught than taught, parents should look more closely at their own tendencies.
Do you correct your children when you see these behaviors and attitudes? Or, do you tend to be more passive about discipline? Do you tend to delay discipline or do you wisely deal with matters as quickly as possible? Do you tend to let your children run the show as you generally acquiesce to their demands? If you do, don’t be surprised when they become self-willed, deceitful and manipulative later in life.
Remember Ecclesiastes 8:11 – “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.”
It’s not easy to raise children to be loving but we must persevere and be sure we are providing the right examples and adequate discipline.
Qualities of love:
1. Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint that rests in God when provoked by circumstances or people (see: Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 4:26-27).
2. Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care and concern for others. Love not only patiently forebears, but through kindness, it actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness (see: Ephesians 4:32; Titus 3:1-5).
3. Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in evil rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the one envied. She delights in evil.
4. Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to your self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no limelight or stage, applause or recognition.
5. Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).
6. Love does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.
7. Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.
8. Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.
9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice. (More on Forgiveness)
10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and delight in the downfall of others.
And the grand finale: love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. In a staccato of four verbs enriched with repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence, we learn that “there is nothing love cannot face” (NEB). “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT). Love is tenacious and faithful. Love is brave and noble; it never fails.
Love is “the most excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31). “These three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13). “Over all virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).
When we realize that God is love, the personal nature and greatness of love takes on powerful significance.