By guest author Pete Olson
How do we as homeschool families balance reaching out to others and protecting our children from the world? Homeschool father and pastor Pete Olson gives some insight in this interview.
A person who lives next door is typically who we think of as our neighbor. Who is our neighbor, biblically speaking, and how does that change the way we look at our family?
Jesus speaks to exactly this point in His parable of the Good Samaritan. The obvious truth is that whoever God brings across our path with needs that we are able to meet is our neighbor. Thus, our neighbor certainly starts with our family members who are in our presence, basically 24/7. Scripture teaches that meeting our family’s needs is our priority; but, that doesn’t exclude God using us in meeting the needs of those outside of our family.
Sometimes a more distant neighbor might be easier to love than the one that lives under my own roof. Why is that?
Love is certainly giving to the basic needs of another without expecting anything in return. For example, it’s admirable to support poor children overseas; however, we are not the ones directly raising these children and the ones that have to live with them 24/7. In our families, we learn both tough love and merciful love as we “tabernacle” here on earth together.
Also, we have expectations on each other as family, but not on the people we “love from a distance.” We cannot afford to have a bitter and critical spirit against our family members, but we often do. It is in our families where we learn the depth of true love which is giving mercy and forgiveness.
Sometimes specific children or even families as a whole struggle with the fear of man that prohibits them from reaching out to love their neighbor. What are some causes of that, and how can it be corrected?
Being secure in who we are as a beloved child of God is one of the basic truths that each Christians needs to know deep in their heart. When one lacks this security, then they are fearful of the influence and opinion of others. Thus, they stay inward.
Often, fear is the result of unhealed hurts from one’s past that haven’t been taken to Jesus for healing.
Another cause of fear is simply selfishness and pride. Tragically, I’ve seen many home education families not reach out to others because they are afraid those people will ‘dirty’ their family or lead them astray from Christ. In protecting our children from worldly influences, we need balance.
We need to teach our children to love and serve not only their own family and church, but also the lost world around them. How can this be accomplished while still providing the needed protection for our children?
This topic requires great balance and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. We also need to be very aware of our children’s spiritual maturity. Obviously, with many young children, their nurturing is the parents’ priority and thus, time reaching out to the world is limited.
However, as our children meet Christ and mature, they should be able to interact with worldly people without going the world’s way. Our children will have to survive and battle the world’s system at some point. The key is knowing when to protect them and when to let them enter the battle.
This discernment can only come from seeking the Lord and hearing His voice. We must know our children’s hearts and teach them that all their decisions should be motivated by the desire to please the Lord. It’s not enough to teach our children to simply please us as parents.
We must discern what kind of outreach ministries each of our children can handle and be successful in. It will obviously differ according to the child. We accomplish this by doing ministry with our children; teaching, training, and even de-briefing after ministry opportunities.
What are some ways that you as a family have been able to obey God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself?”
One major way we, as a family, have reached out to others is through hospitality. For many years we lived on a farm which was an excellent avenue for having people over. We would plan activities and meals intentionally to encourage others. Often, we gave a lot of produce away from our purposely large garden.
Throughout the years, we’ve had many opportunities to visit the elderly and assist them in whatever their needs were; i.e. meals, home care and repair, etc. One time we took a Christmas tree over to a neighbor and sang Christmas carols with them.
Somebody might be thinking, “but my family is not like that!” What are some ways that any homeschool family can reach out with love to their “neighbors”?
There are so many ways to minister. Scripture commands us to watch out for the needs of widows and orphans. This is a good place to start. There are many single moms today who need a lot of help and encouragement. We need to consciously be aware of our neighbors and looking out for them.
Introduce yourself to new neighbors; possibly take a plate of muffins or cookies to them in the process. Just last week, as I was leaving our house, I heard water gurgling up. Walking over to our neighbor’s yard, it was obvious that their sprinkler system had frozen and burst. Fortunately, someone was home and able to deal with the situation. Too often, we’re in such a hurry and get caught up with our own things that we miss our neighbor’ needs when they are right in front of us.
As a pastor and homeschool dad, do you have a closing admonition that you would like to share on this topic?
It is often fear that immobilizes us and keeps us from following up on the opportunities that God gives us to be a neighbor to someone. As in war, the Christian soldier must break out of fear and get moving. If reaching out to your neighbor is difficult, ask God to show you a simple step; then obey. That small first step will be the beginning of a bigger ministry.
Let’s not be the priest and Levite from the Parable of the Good Samaritan who were too focused on themselves to help others. Rather, be that Good Samaritan, willing to help our neighbor even when it costs us. Remember, our salvation was free; it cost Jesus everything. Let’s follow in His footsteps.
Article originally published in The Update Magazine, 2016, Vol. 1, Issue 94.