Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids to love like Christ.
Needed: Bibles, soft balls, two basketball hoops or buckets or boxes
Intro Game: Neighbors and Enemies Basketball
Set up two basketball hoops. If you don’t have basketball hoops, you can use buckets, trash cans, or boxes to catch the balls. If you have a large group, you can split the students into two or more groups and set up two “baskets” for each group.
One by one, students come up to shoot two balls. They have to shoot one ball at Basket A and the other at Basket B. If they get a basket in each, they score a point. If they get a basket in only one, or neither of the baskets, they do not score a point.
Play long enough for each student to have three turns.
Tell students, I want you to think of one person that you really, really don’t like. Try to think of someone who was mean to you or did something bad to you and, so, now, you don’t like them because of it.
Do you think you could ever love that person, even if they never said they were sorry for what they did and even if they just kept being mean to you? Could you love them?
(Read Matthew 5:43.)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
What does it mean for people to love their neighbors and hate their enemies?
Loving your neighbors means loving people who are nice to you like a good neighbor, and hating your enemies means hating people who do bad things to you or are mean to you.
(Read Matthew 5:44.)
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Does Jesus want us only to love people who are nice to us? (No.)
Who else does Jesus want us to love?
Jesus wants us to love our enemies. Jesus wants us to love the people who are mean to us. He wants us to say nice things to the people who say mean things to us. He wants to pray for the people who hurt us.
(Read Matthew 5:45.)
“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.”
What does Jesus say we will be if we love the people who are mean to us?
Jesus says we will be children of God. God will be happy with us if we love even the mean people.
In fact, if we love the people who are nice to us and the people who are mean to us, Jesus says that we will be acting just like God does. Jesus says that God lets the sun shine on good people and bad people. God sends rain down on good people and bad people. God treats everyone the same. So, we should treat everyone the same too. We should love nice people and mean people just the same.
(Read Matthew 5:46-48.)
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus says that it’s easy for people to love and be nice to people who love and are nice to them. Even people who don’t believe in God can love and be nice to people who love and are nice to them.
But Jesus wants us to be better than that. He wants us to love even people who don’t love us. He wants us to love even people who are mean to us.
Do you remember how I asked you to think of a person that you didn’t like very much? I want to think about that person again, but this time I want you to think about ways that you can love that person and be nice to that person, even if they’re not nice to you.
Let’s pray for Jesus to help us with this.
Prayer Exercise: Praying for Our Enemies
Lead students in praying for one person they consider an enemy. Guide them in moving through these steps in their silent prayer time:
1. Tell Jesus what the person did that made you not like them.
2. Ask Jesus to help you forgive that person.
3. Pray for that person.
4. Ask Jesus to help you think of something nice you can do for that person.
Game: Neighbors and Enemies Basketball
Play the intro game again. Explain that the students need to get a basket in both hoops because God wants us to treat everyone the same. They can think of the first basket as their neighbors (the people who are nice to them) and the second basket as their enemies (the people who are mean to them). If they get a basket in one, they have to treat the other fairly and get a basket in it too. If they were to do something nice for their neighbors, they should do something nice for their enemies too.
Jesus, we pray that You’ll help us to love everyone just like You do. Help us to treat everyone the same. Amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Jesus Teaches on the Mountain.