Some weeks ago, near the end of the school year, a little boy in my daughters’ class told them they were in his “enemy book” and he could not play with them. When one of them asked him why, he said, “Because you’re black.” You should also know that just a few days before that, he pointed at a child on the playground and laughed and said in a sing-song voice, “You’re fat. You’re fat.” He followed those words with a pronouncement that the child he was making fun of was in his enemy book for being fat. To this day Nikki has nightmares about being fat, though she has no idea what fat even means.
I spoke with the principal about the boy’s words and my concern that a five-year-old would be acting in such a way. I wondered aloud with her as to what that child might be like if left unchecked throughout his lifetime (or even throughout his elementary years). She shook her head and said simply, “Hate is taught.” To which I replied, “Yes, and so is love. And the only way I know to combat such ignorance and hate is with love.”
So how does one teach someone else to love?
I believe first and foremost it is to model love.
We have the most beautiful description of love in the Bible. I have read it more times than I can count. I have memorized it, prayed it, and taught the words to my children. But none of those things matter if I do not live them out; and I will confess to you, at times, I am terrible at living these out.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud.
Love does not dishonor others.
It is not self-seeking.
It keeps no record of wrong doing.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth.
It always protects,
Love never fails.
I think at times we confuse our godly intent, our gifts, and our great actions with love. But “if I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3
I believe love takes place in our hearts and minds and overflows into our actions. It is best measured by our response to our daily encounters
- when we get cut off in traffic
- when our family members frustrate us
- when people in our life are unkind or hurtful
- when good things happen to others
- when we feel slighted
- when we didn’t get enough sleep, or we feel bad, or we just want to be left alone for one freaking minute of the day
- when people live lives that are counter to what we think is right, or dare I say it, what we believe is godly
All that to say, if we are to combat the hate and ignorance that exists in this world, we must learn to genuinely love. And we must teach our children to do the same.