Because human beings are uniquely made, we won’t always see the world in the same way. Sometimes we’re able to share our differing perspectives and agree to disagree. Sometimes we let our differences drive wedges between us. And sometimes we intentionally hurt one another. Even when we know we were wrong and want to reconcile, it can be difficult to figure out how to do so. Jesus recognized that humans do and will hurt one another, but he also believed that his followers could and should seek to reconnect with one another. In Matthew 15, Jesus offers ways that we can approach one another so that we might repair damaged relationships. In this lesson, children will explore the pathways to reconciliation that Jesus presents to his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel, considering where and how they might address conflicts in their own lives.
You will need
- A Bible
- Old magazines that feature people in groups (ex. friends, families, etc.), blank 8/1”x11” paper, and glue (optional)
- Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the video “Jacob and Esau-Stories of the Bible” (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children in a circle so they can see one another. Ask the children to share a time that they had a disagreement or conflict with another person. What did they disagree about? How did they resolve it?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 18: 15-20):
- The reading comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
- This passage is part of a larger message that Jesus offers in response to one of the disciple’s questions. The disciple asks, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). Jesus replies by calling a child forward encouraging the disciples to be like children, earnestly and humbly seeking the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then offers the parable of the lost sheep. (You may want to retell this parable for children who are unfamiliar with it.)
- In this reading, Jesus tells his disciples what they can do to resolve conflicts between themselves and others. He knows what he is suggesting is different than what they might already be doing, but he wants them to see there is a different way of living.
Read aloud Matthew 18:15-20.
- What does Jesus say someone should do first if they have a conflict with another person?
- If that doesn’t resolve the conflict, what does Jesus say they should do next?
- What is the third step a person should take if they can’t resolve a disagreement?
- Which of these approaches do you think is most helpful? Why?
- How can involving other people in a conversation about a disagreement between two friends help them work through their difficulties?
- What do you think Jesus’ goal was in encouraging people to talk through their conflicts?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Conflict and reconciliation role play: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: old magazines that feature people in groups (ex. friends, families, etc.), blank 8/1”x11” paper and glue. Divide the group into pairs. Ask each pair to look through the magazines to find a picture where two or more people are interacting with one another. For example, they might select a picture of a group of friends at a birthday party. Ask the children to tear the picture out of the magazine and create a story about what is happening in the picture. Then, have them tear the picture so that some of the people are separated from the others. Ask them to continue their story, adding a conflict that happened between the people. Finally, ask them to put the picture back together by gluing the pieces onto a sheet of blank paper. They may choose to reorganize the picture or glue it as it was originally. Have them finish their story noting how the people reconciled and reconnected. Debrief at the end of the activity. What did it feel like to have to “tear apart” the people in the picture? How did it feel when they were reunited? Have you experienced conflicts like the one in your story? How did you resolve them?
- Old Testament reconciliation: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the video “Jacob and Esau-Stories of the Bible.” Ask the children what conflicts between people would be very hard to resolve. Then ask them if there are any conflicts where they don’t think they could reconcile with someone. Show the video. Have the children reflect on Jacob and Esau’s conflict and reconciliation. Was it believable? What was lost by the two brothers resolving their conflict? What was gained?