When I began to tweet tips for parents under the hashtag #ParentTip, I only numbered them for organization, not for priority. Now Parent Tips 1, “Husbands, love your wives . . .” and 2, “Let the wife see that . . . ” (See future posts.) were no-brainers, and did fall in an order of priority, but the rest of my tips have been somewhat random. As I went along, I realized that I had skipped the most important Parent Tip, the Great Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God . . . .” By then, though, I was in the high 20’s. That did not seem an appropriate location for the Tip, which is why this tip is Parent Tip Zero.
After assigning it as zero, I realized how providential that assignment was. This Parent Tip, to love God with all, is the foundation of parenting, before all other thoughts, just as it is of the Christian life. Husbands cannot love their wives as Christ loves the church, and wives cannot respect and submit to their husbands in the way God commands outside of loving God. In fact, I would suggest that the inability to love your wife or to respect your husband indicates a meaningful, if not total, lack in your love for God.
So what kind of love is this anyway? Now that is a distinctly English sort of question. I do not mean British. I mean the English language, in which we use one word, love, to mean “adore, cherish, lust after, like, have sex with, worship, fancy, appreciate, admire, enjoy, want,” and on and on. But what does God mean by love?
God is love (1 John 4:8), and He defines love by demonstration. In Romans 5:8, we read, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves. God dies. Pretty straightforward.
John 3:16 teaches the same. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God loves. God dies. But here, something is added. God did not die for no reason. The purpose of God’s love is that people would have everlasting life.
Everlasting life is a result of the righteousness granted to believers because of God’s demonstration of love, “even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” Peter wrote of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:24, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
Biblically, love is giving of myself, even unto death, for the holiness and righteousness of another. To love God this way is what Jesus described in Luke 9:23, “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'”
To love God means that we give ourselves, just as Jesus gave Himself, with a purpose and a goal, the righteousness of God. You might think, “Well, God already is righteousness.” Yes, but our love for Him seeks to expand the reach of His righteousness in our own lives and in the lives of others.
This expansion of righteousness is the goal of the second commandment (to love our neighbors), of the Great Commission, of our love for our spouse, of our love for our children, and even of our love for our enemies.
Our love of the Lord our God is the foundation for all parenting. It is the Parent Tip upon which all other Parent Tips depend. When this Parent Tip is fully in place, all the others can follow after.