Community-Building: Love your enemies.
Saying the memory verse together at suppertime will imprint it on the hearts of your children forever.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Which is easier, to love a friend or to love an enemy? That's not a hard question to answer, is it? Of course it is easier to love a friend than an enemy. But Jesus turns this upside down when He says, "Love your enemy."
The story of Jonah is not so much about a man and a big fish. It's a story about God's love, an illustration of God's commitment to love His enemies. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. The Assyrians were ruthless conquerors and the Israelites were terrified of their armies. But God tells Jonah to go and preach to them, to give them a chance to repent.
Jonah would have danced in the streets if God had told him that he was going to destroy the Assyrians. But to bring them a message of warning and hope-Jonah wanted no part of that. And, when what Jonah feared came true-the Ninevites repented, and God relented-Jonah was very angry. (Later another prophet, Nahum, predicted the downfall of Nineveh. This time Nineveh was totally destroyed in 612 B.C.)
Yes, it is easier to love our friends. But one refrain of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is this, "You have heard that is was said ... but I tell you ... " Jesus' followers are to do more than love their neighbor; they are to love their enemies. (Read this also in Luke 6:32-36.) When we commit to following Jesus and becoming more like Him, we commit to demonstrating radical love-love for our enemies. Thankfully, we know that we do not do this on our own-God's love first fills our hearts and then overflows to others (see Romans 5:5 and 15).
JUST THE FACTS
How well did you listen to the story?
Q. What club did Liz want to join?
A. The soccer club.
Q. What club did he get assigned to?
A. The school newspaper.
Q. What happened when he ran away rather than tell the soccer club about Miss Wattle’s warning?
A. He fell down a well.
Q. Who rescued him and told him the story of Jonah?
A. Grandpa Anole.
This question is meant to help the children develop a biblical understanding of God, who He is and what He does. The "answer" is not meant for parents to read to their children. Rather its purpose is to assist parents in guiding the conversation to this biblical understanding. We encourage you to use an open Bible in this conversation, building biblical literacy and well as a biblical theology.
Why does God tell us to love our enemies?
There are several reasons to love our enemies: because God tells us to (Luke 6:32-36); because this is what God does—he loves us even while we are still sinners (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 4:32); because when we do, we show others what God is like (Matthew 5:16). Can you think of more reasons?
Why did God cause the vine to grow, and then to die?
The end of the story of Jonah is often forgotten. Why did God cause the vine to grow and then to die? Was it because he wanted to show Jonah that anything he had was a gift from God, something that he could do nothing to provide for himself, and something that he didn’t deserve? Jonah was no different from the Ninevites. He was completely dependent on God’s love and mercy for his life and for his salvation.