Whenever a crisis happens in the United States, people wonder, What now? It’s a question that can make us feel overwhelmed because we ask it in response to huge, weighty issues that are plagued by seemingly unsolvable problems. There is one suggestion often given by Christian parents to just “go home and love your children well.” The idea behind this suggestion is that we—as average individuals who don’t make decisions for an entire country—can’t solve problems of this magnitude, so the best thing for us to do is focus on living well in our own lives and homes. There are numerous variations to this well-meaning sentiment, but they all boil down to the same thing: in essence, compartmentalize the noise outside and focus on your home and family. In fact, however, the times when Christians are most tempted to turn inward are often the times when we most need to keep turning outward, looking and living beyond the walls of our homes.
Jesus says in Luke 14:26 (CEB), “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple.” These are harsh words, but the truth is that, when we become disciples of Jesus—when we are baptized—we become a part of a new family. That reality doesn’t mean we should neglect our nuclear families or our families of origin, but it does mean we are not called as disciples of Jesus to ignore the world and its needs. In fact, we are called to “go into the whole world” (Mark 16:15, CEB) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Galatians 6:10 (CEB) tells us that we should “work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.” And how can we hope to show our children how to do that if we don’t model it for them by example?
The mark of a believer isn’t that we love those with whom we share living space—it’s that we love our neighbors and do good to others. We are even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43–45). Jesus continues this thread in Matthew 5: “If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (vv. 46–48, CEB).
When the world feels scary and heavy, going into that very world to love beyond our own homes and families is a difficult call. Discipleship is not easy, but we are called to the radical love of those around us—not just the people in our homes, not just the people who look and sound like us, but everyone we encounter.
When the world feels scary and heavy, going into that very world to love beyond our own homes and families is a difficult call. Discipleship is not easy, but we are called to the radical love of those around us—not just the people in our homes, not just the people who look and sound like us, but everyone we encounter. True community with others isn’t created by merely reading books about people who are different from you (although that doesn’t hurt). True community is forged by living life in proximity with others. We cannot hope and pray that our children will become disciples in isolation because that is not how discipleship works. Generosity is born out of practicing generosity. Compassion occurs only when there are opportunities to be compassionate. Love is meant to be lived out with action. Effective discipleship involves following and imitating.
There is a lot of darkness in our world. Hate is strong, and racism has reared its ugly head time and time again. But the solution isn’t to shut ourselves inside our homes and hope to shut out the world. That response is a privilege that only some of us are able to do in the first place, and to ignore that reality is to ignore the cries of those we are called to love. If we want to see true change come through the discipleship of our children, we must avoid the temptation to insulate and isolate them with love and, instead, help them navigate the rough waters of the world. They must learn what it means to be hospitable, to be compassionate, to be kind, to be gracious, and to listen well to the cries of others. They must learn to love—even, and maybe especially, when it’s difficult.
It’s our job and responsibility as parents who seek to disciple our children to teach them to partner with the work of the Holy Spirit in the world; to help them to be a calm presence for their friends in the midst of chaotic lives and events that their friends might not have the privilege or ability to ignore; to help them lovingly embrace people who don’t look or sound or act like them; to encourage them to see the scary truth of what is happening but also to see the hope of Christ at work in those scary things; to call them to live a life of compassion and grace that expands beyond their loving homes.
Grab your work gloves, your wallet, your baking supplies, or whatever tools you need to be an effective, loving Jesus follower, and go into the world and love your neighbors well. This is the call of discipleship.
If you are unsure of where to begin when the problems of the world feel big and weighty, then by all means, go home and hug your children and tell them that you love them—and then acknowledge the frightening realities going in the world. Ask them, “Where do you see God at work in this situation, and how can we join God’s work by loving others in the midst of this?” Then grab your work gloves, your wallet, your baking supplies, or whatever tools you need to be an effective, loving Jesus follower, and go into the world and love your neighbors well. This is the call of discipleship.