Throughout history people have made bold promises to people about how they can show their love.
Today, we hear about love in songs, movies, videos, greeting cards, and the list goes on…
The truth is, most of our love promises are empty words, but when Jesus said he loved us, he meant it.
Use this lesson to remind students that people see how Jesus loves us by how we love others.
-Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry
JUNIOR HIGH LESSON FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
Written by Mike Sheley
Bible: Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
Bottom Line: People can see how Jesus loves us by how we love others.
- Prizes for the winners of the game.
OPENING ACTIVITY: 1-UP LOVE
If you have a small group of students, you can divide your group into two teams and have them sit across from each other.
If you are playing this with a large group, you should still divide into two teams, but each team will pick 3-4 people to represent their team.
Say: This game requires creativity, memory skills, and a bit of cold-heartedness… are you up for it?
At Valentine’s Day, people will go to crazy lengths to express their affection for one another.
They will buy dozens of roses, giant teddy bears, and big boxes of assorted chocolates.
But, the things people will say to show their love are even more extreme… “I would swim across the ocean to be with you.” or “I would climb the highest mountain.”
Today, we want to see how you would do if we turned that into a contest.
When I say go, the oldest student in each group will go first.
He/she has to look at the opponent across from him/her and say, “I love you so much that I would . . .” and then fill in the blank.
Remember, these are things people say they would do because they want to impress someone.
Whether or not it is actually even possible doesn’t matter.
For example, “I love you so much that I would hug the sun for you.”
Once that player is done, their opponent will do the same.
If the person being told they are loved smiles, they are out.
However, if they can respond, without smiling, by saying “I need more from you than that.”, then they win that round and get to stay in.
One other thing, you can not repeat any grand statement that has already been said in our game.
If you do, you are out.
The team with the most people remaining in the game at the end of 5 minutes, or the team to successfully get the all the players on the other team out, will be our winner.
Don’t forget to congratulate the winner!
That game was challenging… and probably a bit awkward for some of you!
However, if you think about it, that game had a couple things that we tend to see very often.
- People like to “one up” each other and be better than someone else.
- Those were some dramatic descriptions of love and promises made in the name of love, by people who didn’t really mean what they were saying.
Jesus understood love.
It was more than chocolates, teddy bears, and competitive promises.
Let’s get a better understanding of the kind of love Jesus wants us to have for each other.
Read John 15:9-13.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Jesus starts by saying that he loves his disciples, and the same applies to us.
Then, he tells them to “remain in my love.”
The first question I have when I read that is: “How?”
But, Jesus answers in the next sentence: “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love.”
So, love to Jesus is not just a feeling or words, it has to do with our actions.
When we have read or heard Jesus’ words, which includes instructions on how to live, we remain in his love if we obey him.
Jesus even backs this up by explaining that he remains in God’s love by obeying Him – so he sets an example for us to follow.
Think about this… It is easy to say we love God.
And what is hard?
Just to make sure we didn’t try to sneak out of this, Jesus covers that in verse 12:
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”
Now, Jesus makes a prediction of something that hasn’t happened yet when he says this, but it is in the past to us.
He says: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Every time we see a cross, we should remember this verse.
When Jesus willingly died to take the punishment, we deserve for our sins, he lived out with his actions what his words promised about the most powerful example of love.
Very few people who write and sing songs, or write poetry for commercials or greeting cards have given this kind of extreme, sacrificial love.
And it can’t be “1-uped”!
You can’t give more than your life!
So, what would it look like we followed Jesus’ instructions, if we obeyed his commandment?
Imagine, if instead of people trying to make fun of others so they feel better about themselves, how would they feel about themselves if they encouraged other people.
Imagine if the best players on your team were as focused on helping the weakest players as they were on developing their own skills.
What would it look like if students who get straight A’s in school spent time helping students who struggle so that everyone achieved more.
And imagine if instead of making bold statements about love based on tasks we’ll never actually accomplish, if we cared for others in such a way that they could see how Jesus loves us by how we love others!
Let’s talk about that more in our small groups, specifically, working on how you can pick one way this week to obey Jesus and “love each other.”
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- When you hear the word “love”, what do you think of?
- Why do you think our actions in obedience are more important to Jesus than just our words? (Why do we need to obey him instead of just say we love him?)
- Is it harder to love people than it is to love God? If so, how? If not, why not?
- We usually think of soldiers who have died in battle as being brave. By Jesus’ words in John 15:13, they also show us the most extreme version of love. Does that help you understand what Jesus is talking about?
- We can talk all day about general actions regarding love. But what is one specific action you can do in the next 7 days to show love for these people: (the kind Jesus is talking about, not romantic) classmate, sibling, parent, neighbor, grandparent, friend?
- Pick one of the above list and commit to actually doing it this week. Which one will you do and who will you show love to? (We’ll follow up next week to see how you did.)
Close in prayer.
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Written by Mike Sheley, who is the Middle School Pastor (5th-8th grade) at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 17 years with most of that time focused on 5th-8th graders.