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“They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” — Weekly Christian ed lesson

Starting off

Those of us who have committed ourselves to nurturing young disciples try to demonstrate to children what it means to walk in the way of Jesus. But what exactly does this mean? Does it mean we read the Bible and attend worship? Does it mean we engage in social justice actions in our community? There are many facets to our lives of faith, but, at the core, there is a simple, yet powerful idea: we love one another as Jesus loves us. In this lesson, children will explore the message Jesus offers to his disciples in John 13:31-35 looking for ways they can enact Jesus’ call to love each other as God has loved us.

Begin your time with the children by playing a recording of or singing “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” After hearing or singing this song, tell the children that this is a very popular hymn. In fact, they may have sung it in worship. Ask them what the hymn tells us about being a disciple of Christ. What does the song say is the most important part of being a Christian? How will people know someone is a Christian? Note that the one thing that unites us is the way we love those around us. We love and care for one another in the same way that God loves and cares for us.

Exploring the passage

Prepare to read aloud John 13:31-35. Provide some context for the reading. Share with the children that the story they will hear takes place as the disciples are gathered with Jesus to celebrate Passover. Jesus greets them as they come to the house where they will share dinner by washing their feet, a job usually reserved for a servant because people’s feet were exceptionally dirty after walking on dirt roads in sandals. Then Jesus begins teaching the disciples important lessons he wants them to know before he departs. He tells them he will soon be leaving them, as he knows he will die on the cross. Encourage the children to listen for the message that Jesus wants the disciples to take away from this part of his teaching.

Read aloud John 13:31-35. Ask the children to recount what Jesus tells the disciples he wants them to do once he is no longer with them. What is the commandment he offers them? He tells them to love one another as Jesus has loved them. Have the children recall the ways that Jesus showed his love for his disciples and the people he encountered. What did Jesus do that expressed love? What words did he say? What actions did he take?

Relating the passage to our lives

After discussing the text, explain that while Jesus was speaking to a specific group of people at a specific time, he was also giving directions for all his disciples. All those who believe in and follow Jesus are disciples, including us. On the top of a sheet of chart paper or a whiteboard, write love one another as Jesus loves you. Then have the children brainstorm a list of ways they can and do show Christ’s love to one another. Encourage them to think of ways they show love to the larger community as well as the ways they love individuals. Record their ideas on the chart paper/whiteboard.

Next, gather the materials you’ll need for the art activity: colored paper, scissors, a single hole punch, markers or crayons, and yarn. Give each child several sheets of colored paper. Ask them to cut heart shapes from the paper. Alternately, you can cut out the hearts prior to the lesson. Have the children write or draw ways that they show Jesus’ love to one another on the paper hearts. Encourage them to not only draw from the list the group made, but also to include their own ideas. When they have finished, use the hole punch to make one hole on the left and right sides of each heart. Then have the children cut pieces of yarn approximately 8” long. Thread the end of a piece of yarn through the hole on the right side of one heart and tie a knot securing it to the paper. Then thread the other end of the piece of yarn through the hole on the left side of another paper heart. Tie a knot to keep the yarn in place. Repeat this process so that all of the children’s paper hearts are joined together in a chain.

Hang the paper heart chain on a wall where others will see it. It will serve as a reminder of the ways that we carry out Jesus’ call to love one another as God loves us.