Trying to love people the way Jesus did can be intimidating. It can push us well beyond our comfort boundaries. Yet as we make this effort our children will learn what real love—and real ministry—is all about. The flame of inspiration may well be lit as our children observe our love in action—and begin to see the results in people's lives.
When our family first moved to the Colorado Springs area, we discovered a wonderful little restaurant that served a "proper" British tea, complete with scones and clotted cream. Since "teatime" is one of my favorite experiences, I frequented the little cafe often with my children in tow. Over a period of time, we befriended one of the waitresses who became dear to us. Each time we visited, we learned more about her life. And each time we returned home, the kids would have new excitement about praying for her.
"Mom, maybe we can have her to our house for tea and have a chance to be her friend and help her know the Lord."
The Lord did open up an opportunity for us to share a couple of our books with her, to talk about the Lord, and to become even closer to her before we moved away. And when we drove through the area recently on a trip, we stopped by the restaurant for a surprise visit. Our waitress friend threw up her arms in surprise when she spotted us coming in the door, and she treated all of us to lunch. Tears filled our eyes as she told us how much we had meant to her. I feel quite sure we will talk about our friend and pray for her for years to come.
So often in the context of our family routines the Lord has given us opportunities to reach out to others. It might be a checkout clerk at the store, a lonely neighbor, a nurse at the doctor's office, or a pesky neighbor child who hangs out at our house every day while his mother is at work. Wherever the Holy Spirit places us is exactly where he can extend this special love through us. As we are faithful to take these opportunities to minister, our children will gradually get the idea that God wants to use them, one person at a time, to change the world by reaching out to people who need his love.
Romans 5:8 tells us that "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It wasn't while we were praying for him to come or while we were being godly but while we were deeply involved in our particular brand of selfishness and sin that Christ saw our need, reached out toward us by coming to earth, and gave himself up to death for our benefit.
When we seek to inspire our children, we need to model for them this initiating principle. That means we put out our spiritual antennas, so to speak, wherever we go, looking for people in need. Then we take steps to reach out to them in some way, whether or not they are people we would normally feel comfortable with or people we think are good "prospects" for accepting Jesus. Even as Jesus died for us when we needed it, following him means befriending others who, like us, are in need of his grace. Then, once a relationship is formed or a friendship is started, we seek opportunities to share the truth of God's love and forgiveness as gently and attractively as we are able.
"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart ... " ~Acts 2:47
Can you think of someone who might be in need of your hospitality today? Invite someone for a meal or coffee, and love the way Jesus loved.