Eye for an Eye (Matthew 5:38-48) Sunday School Lesson

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Eye for an Eye (Matthew 5:38-48) Sunday School Lesson
Love everyone — even when they do wrong to you!

This kids Bible lesson teaches about retaliation and loving those who hurt you from Matthew 5:38-48. The idea of “love” can mean many things to kids…from loving family and friends to loving sports and pizza, or of course the idea of romantic “mushy” love…what about loving bullies? How do we genuinely show we care about someone when we actually don’t? This lesson looks at what Jesus taught about loving others, and how he demonstrated what it means to love enemies.

Lesson focus: Jesus gives us difficult but important directions sometimes…for one thing, He asks us to show love for all people, even those who are not always kind to us.

Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)

Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:17-21

Materials Needed: Bean bags, paper towel tubes, paper (various colors) cut into heart shapes; string; tape; stickers; pipe cleaners.

Bonus Ideas: More activities to help you teach this scripture passage.

Lesson Opening: Simon says…do the opposite! Sometimes the things Jesus taught seem strange, or seem like the opposite of what we might naturally want to do. Open this concept with a game…play “Simon says” but instead of following “Simon”’s directions, kids should do the opposite. If the leader says to lift a left foot, kids should lift their right. Play a few rounds of this and talk about what was challenging. They had to twist their expectations a bit and do what did not come naturally. Explain that today’s lesson will involve a similar concept.

“Eye for an Eye” Bible Lesson for Kids

Sometimes people may upset us. Invite students to share stories of bullies or enemies. What makes someone difficult to work with? And what might we want to do to people who hurt us? Expand the challenging concept further by discussing public “villains” or enemies, like political antagonists or corrupt leaders of the past (Hitler, Herod, etc.). We naturally want to see people like that suffer as punishment for their deeds…but let’s look at what Jesus said about the topic:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.    -Matthew 5:38-42

This is easier said (or read) than done. Really, giving people extra stuff when they want to take from us? Is this something we can or should do? Chat about the phrase “kill them with kindness.” Sometimes the best thing we can do is just re-pay evil with good…it’s not as seemingly gratifying initially, but the Bible promises it is worth it…
What is love? This can be a challenging question, especially for young kids. Maybe they love family, or cats, or Skittles…maybe they think of romance or classic “love” appearances. There are some things that are easy to love. Try a little illustration challenge:

Set up boxes as bean bag “targets”…mark one box “family,” another “friends”, and one more “enemies.” Place the enemies box farther away and higher up to make it difficult to reach. After a few attempts, allow kids to stand on a stool marked “Jesus” or step up to another line, to show how God makes it possible to love our enemies…

Continue with the text:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  –Matthew 5:43-48

Of course, we cannot be perfect as it mentions…only Jesus is truly perfect all of the time. But this passage does remind us that God loves us and made us all. He is in charge of what happens to whom and He will take care of the details. Our job is to realize that He loves others, even the most difficult ones, and He wants us to do the same.

Discuss ways we might be able to appreciate or care for people that do not always treat us the best. What small things can we do to work through challenges? What are the worst things people can do to us? Nothing is worse than what was done to Christ, but He forgave even those who nailed Him to the cross. We are promised that all outcomes are ultimately up to God. We might want justice served or things changed, but He is the one in charge…

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  -Romans 12:17-21

Is this easy? No. But is it necessary? Jesus said so. And let’s face it, in the face of practicality, we might not have an easy time truly “loving” someone who hates us. But even when the feelings aren’t there, we are still called to treat others with kindness and respect. And if nothing else, there is always the old Bambi “Thumper principle”: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.

Make a hanging reminder to love everyone…decorate paper hearts with pictures, stickers, and reminder words and verses about loving the more difficult in our lives. Hole punch the hearts and attach to paper towel tubes using string or pipe cleaners. Make sure to display in a prominent spot.

Close with prayer and thank God for loving us and blessing our lives. Ask for patience and clarity when it comes to loving others around us no matter what.

5 thoughts on “Eye for an Eye (Matthew 5:38-48) Sunday School Lesson”

  1. I have been struggling lately as an adult, to follow this biblical principal, thank you for this.
    I read it so I could perhaps use it for the youth at our church, but, it was a teaching God wanted me to experience because he knows I am struggling in this area in my life during this difficult season in our country and in my work.
    I can’t wait to use it to teach our youth.
    God bless

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