Give to children what God has given you—the inner security of acceptance without performance.
God proceeds to issue his second power declaration over and about Jesus in front of the crowd. “This is my son whom I love.” Whereas the pride of the Father-Son connection could be felt in the first statement (This is my son), the heart of the Father would be felt in the second. In context, it reflects for all time what every man, woman, and child needs to hear and experience: unconditional love or acceptance without performance.
These words are spoken over Jesus at his baptism. Jesus has yet to preach one sermon, heal one leper, cast out one demon, do one miracle, call one follower, forgive one sinner, or endure one moment of suffering. Being the object of such unconditional love and acceptance from the Father made Jesus fearless before men and able to offer the same type of love to all kinds of people, people who felt marginalized because they were labeled “sinners” and “not good enough” for God to love them. The power of unconditional acceptance, as we see in Jesus after this moment, is total freedom to serve, connect, touch, engage, care, witness, and die for our sake, secure in the Father’s love.
The same unconditional love is ours as well. God does not love us based on our performance.
When love in a relationship is based on performance, the foundation of the relationship erodes into a fatal cycle of fear. Jesus knew nothing of that fear, and neither do the dangerous good. God’s unconditional love for us based on Christ’s work on the cross eliminates fear and replaces it with gratitude and energy rising out of thankfulness to honor his sacrificial love.
That is the power of unconditional and sacrificial love being recognized, received, and responded to by someone. It creates a spirit of thankfulness and stewardship to honor the sacrifice. By contrast, fear of somehow losing God’s love by what you do or don’t do inevitably devolves into performance for God’s favor and love. That is when our spiritual life hits a slippery slope God never intended. Performance for God’s favor and love leads to competition and judgment because there is a limited supply reserved only for the best. Competition and judgment create standards that have to be met. Those who are meeting the standard are accepted, and those who don’t are treated as second class, which causes a division between people and distance from God.
Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because they could never live up to their own standards, let alone the Lord’s, while, at the same time, demanding other people live up to those standards. Oddly, his unconditional love violated their sense of fairness; they found it difficult to break out of their prideful performance mode, which Jesus labeled a “heavy load.”
The best gift a dangerous good man can give to a child is a love not based on what they do or don’t do. By his own example, God has modeled that, and Jesus modeled internalizing and walking powerfully in that love. Give to children what God has given you—the inner security of acceptance without performance. This helps them solve the one inner struggle the evil one loves to perpetuate in the little spirits of children: the acceptance issue. They need to know they will never lose your love no matter what they do.
Children have simple and powerful filters for internalizing and recognizing whether or not they are worthy of love.
Isn’t that how we assess if anyone truly cares about anyone else? You take your most precious commodity—your time—and offer it willingly to another person. A child knows this intuitively and can read between the lines emotionally when promises of time are made and not kept. While kids are super-resilient, have a short memory, and are quick to forgive, neglect over long spans of their formative years will take a heavy emotional toll, and if they perceive you don’t want to spend time with them, they will receive that information as a message: I am unlovable.
This perception launches any child into a broken quest for love and validation, making them an easy victim of broken communities of acceptance outside the family. These broken communities of acceptance offer what we are either unwilling to part with or don’t know how to give. Always remember that love, in its most universally accepted form, is spelled T-I-M-E in their little hearts.
Asking great questions, hearing and responding to answers eagerly, repeating and commenting on what you hear, and asking follow-up questions are validating for any human being of any age. Laughing and enjoying the conversation is icing on the cake for a child. Children are born with a natural curiosity concerning their world and are eager to process it with the people closest to them. Smart dads discipline themselves by asking questions to satisfy this hunger to take the world in but also plan time to talk (especially when they are ready to spill their thoughts).
Think bedtime, dad. Ask about their day. Ask about their highs and lows, peaks and pits, and the things they are looking forward to or loathing. They are ready to talk. Are you?
For a child, appropriate physical touch is monumental to emotional and spiritual formation. Think of touch as comfort. How do you feel when you are anxious, hurting in some way, and uncomforted about some issue or situation in your life? God has hard-wired human beings to seek out physical comfort. It is as natural as breathing for a child to run to their mom or dad when they are hurt in any way. Reactive comfort must be given physically by dads to their kids.
But there is another side to comfort as well—the proactive side. That kind of comfort is unsolicited but spontaneously offered, lavishly bestowed, and for no reason other than they are yours. This kind of comfort communicates value, belonging, and, above all, love in the most meaningful ways to a child.
Taken from Dangerous Good: The Coming Revolution of Men Who Care by Kenny Luck. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/deiga ellaby
Kenny Luck is the Founder and President of Every Man Ministries. Kenny is the leadership and teaching pastor at Crossline Church in Laguna Hills, California. He is an ECPA Platinum award-winning author of 24 books covering marriage, family, and men's issues. Kenny has been a featured guest on FOX News and is the driving force behind the Every Man Global LIVESTREAM and podcasts heard around the world.