Talking To Your Kids about “What Love Is”

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay our lives down for our brothers and sisters.  – 1 John 3:16

This post is the 11th in a series on our new CD Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs. All the lyrics to Sing the Bible are word-for-word Scripture. I hope this series helps parents talk with their kids about each passage on the CD.


1 John 3:16 is a great conversation starter with kids. At first glance, it seems like a simple and efficiently packaged lesson.

1. This is how you know what Love is…

2. See what Jesus did?

3. Now go and do the same.

However, we only need to remember our own horrific record of personal obedience to abandon that notion. This is no “one and done” lesson. I am still learning, so I must allow my kids the freedom to absorb and understand (and transform) at the Lord’s pace. You could start by asking them what is so special about this verse.

They’ll probably miss it, but in this passage John detonates an atomic bomb of knowledge and insight. In one short sentence, the “disciple Jesus loved” reveals one of the greatest biggest mysteries of the human race.

John lifts up the crucifixion as the definition of Love. He is also saying, “This is how to know whether or not you have love: if you lay down your life for others without regard for your own pleasure or comfort.”

This definition of love really hits home with those of us old enough to multiply and divide. Those kids (and parents) realize how impossible it really is to forget about ourselves and our wants. This is how Oswald Chambers puts it (in today’s Utmost).

Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done a super-natural work in us.

So, this verse provides a great opportunity for kids (and adults) to pray. “Lord? Have you done a supernatural work in me? Please show me by helping me love my brother and sister when I don’t want to.”

Parents, this verse gives us a great chance to level the gospel playing field between us and our children. They need to see us needing Jesus. Tell them how you struggle with this verse, and how the Lord loves others through you. You may start a conversation that lasts a lifetime.

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