Core Teaching: Love is a core part of Christian life and belief. Without Love, we are not who God created us to be. Christians love.
Session Goals: To help students reflect on the Virtue of Love as a Fruit of the Spirit and to incorporate Love into their daily lives.
Supplies: Bibles, Whiteboard/Newsprint, Markers, Masking Tape, a copy of the “Obvious Works of the Flesh” Worksheet for each person, a copy of the Student Leader Help Sheet for each discussion/small group leader
Memory Verse: Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Write on the Board and encourage Youth to memorize this week.)
Galatians 5:16-26 NRSVPhilippians 2:5-8 NRSV
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NRSV
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NRSV
Opening Prayer- Student
Announcements, Attendance, and Offering- Teacher
Introduction to the Lesson- Teacher
Love is the ultimate Virtue for none of the virtues could exist without Love. True virtues find their meaning in Love. Love is also the primary Fruit of the Spirit. No spiritual fruit is possible without Love.
Imagine Wisdom without Love. What would it be like? Theologian Paul Tillich warned that we should distrust every claim for truth where we do not see truth united with love. (Paul Tillich, The New Being, Scribner’s, 1955, p.74.)
Imagine Courage without Love. What would it be like? Rash action, mindless zealots, a rebel without a cause are all version of loveless courage. A person willing to die for a truth would also be willing to kill for a truth unless that person has Love. Where can we see this today?
Imagine Justice without Love. What would it be like? Without Love Justice is simply over-use of Power and at its worst it is vindictive retribution. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said this: “Any justice which is only justice soon degenerates into something less than justice. It must be saved by something which is more than justice.” (Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Men and Immoral Society, Scribner’s 1932, p. 258.) That “something more” is Love!
Imagine Temperance without Love. What would it be like? Grim-faced asceticism, rejection of the world and creation, manic athleticism, self help addiction to dieting and purging. A world where neighbor is not cared for and God is forgotten.
Faith? Hope? Paul said it best: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV Without Love, Faith and Hope are less than the real thing. How can we have Faith in a God we do not Love? How can we Hope without Love to carry us through to realize our Hope?
When we studied the Seven Deadly Sins we learned that each of the Deadly Sins is a gross distortion of Love. It is important to remember that without Love we are just a shadow of what God created.
Small Group Discussions- Student Leaders
Key Questions (These should be answered during the discussion below)
- What is Love?
- What is the difference between “flesh” and “Spirit” according to Paul?
- How does having “the mind of Christ” help us to love?
- What is the primary way to identify Christians?
- How do we love?
What exactly is Love? How do we even define it? There is probably no word used and abused more than Love. Just think of some common bumper stickers you have seen: “America, Love It or Leave It”; “Make Love Not War”; Love Means Never Having To Say You Are Sorry”; “I Love New York”; “I Love The Dallas Mavericks”. Or just think about the titles of some popular music, TV shows, or Movies.
Part of the problem is that the English Language has only one word for Love. The Greek Language has four:
- epithemia– desire, close to lust
- eros– love of the beautiful, true, and good
- philia– brotherly/sisterly friendship love
- agape– the love of God, a self giving love
But where does Love come from? “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
As Christians, we believe that the supreme manifestation of God’s love was through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God sending Jesus, God-in-the-flesh was an extraordinary act of love. And Jesus showed us concretely what God’s love looks like in everyday life. When we look at Jesus we see the character of true Love itself.
Here are some quotes about Love:
v “God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
v “We cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
v “To love God is to love oneself truly; to help another person to love God is to love another person; to be helped by another person to love God is to be loved.” Soren Kierkegaard
v “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
Some of these quotes might appeal to us more than others. As a group share the different ideas you have heard or read about the nature of Love.
Flesh vs. Spirit?– Read Galatians 5:16-26 to the group.
- As a group, sum up what this passage is saying. Can you say it simply?
- Why do you think Paul needed to make a list of “bad things’ and “good things” for the Christian community he was writing to? Doesn’t everyone know what “good things” are and what “bad things” not to do?
- Is either list complete? Why? Or why not?
q We need to be clear about Paul’s use of the terms “flesh” and “spirit”. For Paul, flesh is not a reference to our physical body. In his writing Paul used a different Greek word for flesh than he used for body. Paul also does not make flesh a synonym for Sin. Instead, Paul is speaking of two different realm of power by which we can live: 1) the realm of the world; 2) the realm of Christ.
q For Paul, our problem is not that we live in a human body. Our problem is that we live in Sin. We live according to our Sin-Full world (flesh) rather than living according to the Spirit as the domain of power.
q Paul is urging the Galatians (and now us) to remember that as Christians they have received the Holy Spirit, therefore they should walk in the Spirit (not in the ways of a Sin-Full world). The Holy Spirit is the supreme energizing force in our lives as Christians (or should be).
q For Paul, the Holy Spirit is more than a manifestation of supernatural power, more than a giver of spiritual gifts, more than an explosive force erupting in Christian believers. The Holy Spirit is the daily sustaining, inspiring, and guiding power of the Christian life. It is absolutely impossible to live as a Christian on our own power and strength. We need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Does this understanding of Paul’s message change your understanding of the passage? How?
v Now turn to the worksheet called “Obvious Works of the Flesh” and follow the instructions on it.
Have The Mind of Christ– Read Philippians 2:5-8 to the group.
- What is the nature of love?
- How do we appropriate love?
- How does love express itself in our lives?
q To begin to answer these questions, we look to Jesus. This Philippians passage is considered one of the most beautiful descriptions of Christ in all of Scripture. It is also a description of Christian obedience and discipleship.
q Christ is the ultimate example of love. Christ is the pattern for us as Christians to follow.
- According to this passage how can we be like Christ?
- Can we really live up to this model? Why? Or why not?
q Just as Jesus obediently suffered, so should we as Christians stand firm in the Gospel, doing the things Jesus did, even if it brings suffering.
q Just as Jesus took the form of a slave, so should we as Christians become servants to all, no matter what the cost.
q When Paul talks about who Jesus was and what Jesus did, he always talks about the Cross. The Cross symbolized God overcoming all obstacles to reach us, even the obstacles of Sin and Death.
- When you think about Jesus and the Cross, would you life/actions change if you had the same “mind that was in Christ Jesus” on a daily basis?
- Do you really want to live this Christ-Life? Why? or Why not?
How Will They Know We Are Christians? By Our Love!-
Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 to the group.
- How can you tell if someone you meet is a Christian?
- What outward signs do you look for to know they are a Christian?
q Some people say we are in a cultural war today. But think for a minute about Jesus’ day.
v “It is interesting that the people who held the right values were the ones least responsive to Jesus’ message and most likely to receive his reprimands. His message was received with great eagerness by those who came down of the wrong side of all the value issues- the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the religious half breeds….The ironic result of their [the Pharisees’] ‘rightness’ in belief and practice was that they became unable to love- did not want the sick to be healed on the Sabbath, did not want the adulterous woman to be forgiven, did not want sinners to share fellowship with the righteous. They came to see people they were called to love as ‘the enemy’.” John Ortberg
- Have you ever been “right” but acted “wrongly” toward someone else?
- Have you ever heard a “right” sermon that was loveless or callous toward some group of people who need to feel loved?
- Have you ever known somebody so caught up with passion in being on the “right” side they forgot the heart of the Gospel?
q Jesus said the heart of the entire law was to love God and love people-
- How is Paul saying to love God and people in the Scripture passage?
q Our primary task as Christians is not make rational arguments for Christian values. Our primary task as Christians is to be a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel has love at its core.
- Are you more likely to be a witness or to argue about faith matters?
- What things do you do each day/week/year that witness to others the love that is found in the God of Jesus Christ?
q Jesus did NOT say “All persons will know you are my disciples if you present a convincing argument or promote my agenda.” Jesus did say “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 out loud to everyone-
q Love does not blind us to the faults of others. Instead love prevents us from paying too much attention to those faults.
- Hand out “The Love Quiz” to each person and follow the instructions on the worksheet.
Joys and Concerns- Teacher: Write these on a piece of butcher paper.
Closing Prayer- Students: Close with a circle prayer with each person thanking God for someone they love and someone who loves them.