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David loved the church; he couldn’t rest until he found a place for God’s people to worship (Ps. 132:1–5). Christ loved the church more; He gave His life for it. We are to love the church and model this love for our children.
Is the church always lovable? Not at all. Sometimes its members are backbiting, prideful, and selfish. But the church is the bride of Christ. If our perfect Savior can love His flawed church, we sinners must not hesitate to love fellow sinners. Our lives are to be summed up by love—for God above all, and then for our neighbor as ourselves. We are to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). By God’s grace, our children will follow our example.
We cannot fake love for God or the church. God knows, and our children will eventually know as well. Hypocrisy can make our children despise us and the church. So for our life’s sake, we need to make our calling and election sure. Have we exercised Spirit-wrought repentance and faith in Christ? Are we prayerfully bringing the gospel to our covenant children, teaching them, “You must be born again”? When we are saved, our love for God will naturally flow to the church.
Church is not the building we go to but the body of believers we worship with. We are to assemble ourselves together in the local church as a family. Are we walking with the Lord, and is this reflected in our motives, words, and behavior? Let’s not live cappuccino-style (coffee and milk separated) lives that separate church from everyday life. Let’s live coffee-with-cream-style lives that thoroughly mix church with our everyday lives. What does this look like?
This kind of life shows what cannot be seen—our motives. Loving the church moves us to be involved as a family, to be living members—to eagerly attend worship services and many functions. It means reflecting on Sunday’s sermons throughout the week over dinner, praying compassionately for our church family, and getting excited about seeing God’s work in sinners’ lives. Love shines through a servant’s heart. We want to comfort others, and we do so with our children, cooking meals or cheering the downhearted. Loving the church goes hand in hand with loving the Scriptures and living by them. It means loving righteousness and striving for purity—in ourselves, in others, and in society—to God’s honor. It means bearing the burdens of those who have slipped into sin by restoring them with meekness, realizing that we can slip too (Gal. 6:1). In humility, we squelch any sense of superiority in ourselves and speak of others with love and respect.
Humility, with love, may be the most important factor to help our children bond with the church. It must inform our words and tone of voice, which powerfully communicate ideas that shape our children’s attitudes for life, especially toward the church.
My husband and I have met couples who love the church but have had gripes—some realistic, some flowing from a critical spirit. Or they may have been hurt by church members. They unburdened themselves at the dinner table when their children were growing up. The result? Many of their children have left their home church, and some have left church altogether. I urge you to refrain from sharing your negative feelings with your young children. Their minds don’t have the breadth of experience that allows them to process church problems and still love the church. They may see your pain and resent the church for causing it. They may focus on the faults of the church when you are just airing your complaints. They may wonder why you stick with an institution that has so many defects, and they may then escape as soon as they are of age. They may feel justified in deserting the church because your complaints seem genuine and your commitment seems thin.
Instead, discuss your problems prayerfully and resolve them appropriately with those involved. Children do need simple, honest explanations of church problems at times, but be careful not to divulge confidential information. Humility makes us grieve over problems and pour out our hearts in prayer for a God-honoring solution. Our children must see that although the church is imperfect, we love it still and are committed to doing our part to serve and make it better.
Serving binds us to those we serve. Our children are more likely to stay with the church if they are assigned meaningful tasks as preteens and teens. Let’s harness their energy, sending them out to do house and yard cleanup for elderly members, as well as other such services, so they can experience the blessings of giving and embark on a lifetime of service.
I’ve met parents whose children were bullied or ignored by their church peers. To be sure, this is a painful experience. Some of these children, in their pain, say, “If that’s what Christian kids do, I’m out of here!” Kindness must permeate our churches. It’s the very heart of Christianity. Let’s set a tone of kindness in our homes by not criticizing others; rather, let’s love and accept others and reach out with a helping hand. When we model this and deal decisively with our children’s sinful, unkind expressions, we nurture hearts of empathy so they will say to a lonely peer, “Hey, come hang out with us.” It’s so easy and yet so powerful.
Love made Christ die willingly to save us. Love keeps the church alive. Love helps solve problems in church. Let us make our homes and churches havens of love and comfort in the storms of life. Let’s pray that our children will carry the baton of love to the next generation.