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BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 5:38-48 

BACKGROUND: This lesson from Jesus is part of the Sermon on the Mount. He tackles the question of whether he is challenging Jewish law head-on, and he raises the bar even higher. For example, the law says: “Do not kill”, but Jesus says: “Don’t even be cross with someone, don’t call them names”. Such teaching would have made his followers gasp. How could anyone achieve such perfection? 

The last lesson is perhaps the most demanding of all: “Love your enemies.” Children who have experienced bullying will have a sharp understanding of who their ‘enemies’ are, so this instruction will be just as challenging for them. This session encourages them to wrestle with it together, and to think about how to get into the habit of loving others, whoever they are. 




As the children arrive, chat about the goodies and baddies in popular superhero or fantasy movies. Who do we want to win, and what do we want to happen to their enemies? 




You will need: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury 

Read this traditional-story-with-a-twist together and take in the pictures. Wonder together about the ending. What happened to the Big Bad Pig? How did the little wolves treat their enemy? 




You will need: character cards for everyone in the group, repeating or doubling up as necessary; an ‘Old rule’ card and a ‘New  rule’ card (see below) 

Before the session, create cards with all these descriptions: 

The fighter: your brother was killed by the Romans. 

The disciple: you were a fisherman and Jesus asked you to follow him, so you did. 

The thief: you are picking people’s pockets in the crowd around you. 

The beggar: you are really hungry, and are hoping that Jesus will give out free food. 

The Pharisee: you pride yourself on being a very good person and keeping all of God’s laws. 

The neighbour: you had to walk all this way because someone stole your donkey. 

Old rule: an eye for an eye. People must be paid back for the harm they do you: “You shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:23-24). 

New rule: love your enemies. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:39-44). 

Explain that you’re going to imagine yourselves in today’s story. Everyone will be part of a big, noisy rabble that has followed Jesus to hear what he has to say. It’s hot and your feet are dusty. Everyone has crowded onto a hillside to listen. Give out the character cards and read them together. Then tell this story: 


Jesus is talking about the religious laws, which you are all familiar with. These are  like the rules of the game. Lay down the ‘Old rule’ card. Invite the children to talk about how their character feels about the old rule. 

What happens if we all play by this rule? 

Invite responses, either in or out of character. 

Then Jesus surprises everyone with some new rules! Lay down the ‘New rule’ card. Invite the children to talk about how their character feels about the new rule. 

What happens if we all play by this rule? 

Invite responses, either in or out of character. 

Jesus told the crowd: “Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” 




Ask these questions, making sure everyone has the chance to contribute: 

  • What do you imagine it felt like to be in the crowd around Jesus that day? 
  • What questions would you like to ask Jesus about this story? 
  • Why did Jesus make the new rule? 
  • Who is easy to love? Who is hard to love? 
  • Who are our enemies? 




You will need: packets of Rowntree’s Randoms; paper plates 

Chat about how loving our enemies can be hard. Jesus knew this because he had lots of enemies, but he told his friends to love the people who hurt them. Ask the group how they could begin to do such a difficult thing. One answer is to practise loving people by doing random acts  of kindness. If you get into the habit of being kind and loving, maybe loving those who are hardest to love will become a bit easier. 

Tip out a plateful of Randoms. Can the children suggest random acts of kindness inspired by these different shapes? Chat about acts of practical love as everyone selects different sweets and eats them. Talk about how we could do some of these things for people we don’t like. 

Childline ( recommends the following as an anti-bullying strategy designed to build victims’ confidence: “You could give someone a compliment. Or you could help at home with some chores. 

Doing something nice for someone can really help you feel better about yourself.” 




Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. Explain that you’re going to pray for everyone who has hurt you. Invite the children to think of someone who has hurt them. Say this prayer: 

We silently tell God their  names,  and we clench our fists to show how angry and upset they have made us. Clench fists. 

Loving God, we pray for our enemies. And we pray for ourselves, that our hearts may be filled with love instead of hate. 

Let’s open our hands and join them with our neighbours’ hands. Cross arms (as if singing ‘Auld lang syne’) and hold hands around the circle. 

Loving God, hate drives us apart but love brings us closer together. Please help us to love each other. Amen. 

Be available to children who may need to talk to you after the session. 

Supporting documents

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