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Life-changing love: Family faith formation @ home


Before you begin, invite those gathered to go outside (or if weather does not permit, around the house) and gather something that reminds them of new life (a flower, a leaf, water, a cross, the Bible or anything they think connects with resurrection) and place it in the center of the gathering after each repetition of “He is risen indeed!” Repeat as often as necessary.

One:    Christ is risen!
All:      He is risen indeed!
(Place a sign of new life on the table.)

One:    There are signs all around. Christ is risen!
All:      He is risen indeed!
(Place a sign of new life on the table.)

One:    The old has gone and the new is come. Christ is risen!
All:      He is risen indeed!
(Place a sign of new life on the table.)

One:    Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we can begin anew. Christ is risen!
All:      He is risen indeed!
One:    We are here, Holy Spirit. Show us new ways to be faithful.

God sightings and prayer offerings

Invite each person to share a where they saw or experienced God this week. Invite each person to share something (a person, community, experience, event, etc.) for which they want to offer prayer. 

Good and gracious God, we thank you for all the ways you were and are present in our lives and in the world … [invite each person to say aloud the sighting they named earlier]. We bring our prayers to you, prayers for … [invite each person to say aloud the prayer need they named earlier]. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Connecting with Scripture: 1 John 3:16-24

Read the Scripture aloud the first time using the New Revised Standard Version or the Common English Bible.

As you listen to the Scripture read a second time, count the number of times you hear the word “love” or a word related to love. How many did you identify? What words did you hear that were related to love?

Connecting through story

Watch this clip from the movie “Pay it Forward.”

  • Why does Mr. Simonet think we can make a difference in the world?
  • What is Trevor’s idea?
  • Why do you think his classmates responded in the way they did?

Connecting with our lives

Engage in dialogue:

  • Simonet assigned the students to change the things they didn’t like about the world. What do you think God likes and does not like about the world?
  • What does 1 John 3:16-17 say about the world?
  • What does it say about love?
  • How do we know what love looks like?
  • What kind of love did God model for us?
  • What is God’s idea that will change the world?
  • In this passage, what does love look like?
  • What’s the difference between a commandment and an assignment?
  • How does the kind of love God gives us (and commands us to also do) change the world?
  • According to this passage, who is commanded to do this life-changing and world-changing love?
  • Trevor’s idea is to do a significant life-giving act of kindness for three people and those three people, in turn, do the same for three other people. Instead of paying Trevor back, they pay the kindness forward. How is that similar or dissimilar to 1 John 3:16?
  • What does it mean to pay God’s love forward?
  • At the end of the movie clip, Mr. Simonet says to Trevor, “The class thinks you’ve come up with an overly utopian idea.” The people around him think his idea to pay it forward is too big – if not possible – to which Trevor responds, “So?”
    • Why do you think his classmates think the idea is too big or unrealistic?
    • Why do you think Trevor shrugs and says, “so?”
    • What is Trevor communicating with that response?
  • In the face of words like “hard, bummer, crazy,” Mr. Simonet offers the class the word “possible,” and suggests what is possible exists within each person’s mind. Where does God suggest the possibility exists?
  • In what ways is loving like this easy and difficult?
  • If we really loved like God commands us to do in this passage, what might be possible in this world?

Teaching points that can be incorporated into your discussion:

  • God’s love is extravagant and bears the incredible gift of grace.
  • However, this life-giving act of love was not without cost.
  • The cost was God’s own Son.
  • When we love others as God first loved us, we are paying that love forward.
  • The love God gave us and commands us to emulate is one of sacrifice — of putting the good of someone else in the forefront of our minds and actions.
  • This kind of love is often antithetical to the world’s understanding of “every person for themself.”
  • God’s overly utopian idea is one of love — the same kind of life-giving, transforming love God gave us and showed us how to give others.
  • God knows we humans cannot possibly love in such a way on our own, so God gives us the Spirit to help us lean into such amazing love.
  • Even in the face of wide-spread skepticism and doubt that this kind of love is possible, Christ sent us the Spirit to help us shrug and say, “So?”
  • We follow in Christ’s ways and live as God commands — that we love one another.

Now that you’ve explored today’s Scripture about love, go back and read the text again only this time substitute “assignment” for “commandment.” What assignment is God giving you in this passage?


Close your time together by praying for one another, your neighbor, community and the world.

REBECCA DAVIS is the associate professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. A teaching elder and certified educator, she served congregations for over 20 years before moving into academic teaching. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, her passion is child advocacy and ministry.