Memory Verse: “The one who used to fights us is now proclaiming the faith he tried to destroy!”
Items for Preparation:
- Gather some things that will convey the idea of enemies to your group of kids. These can vary from, say, a photo of a burglar, to the mascot or symbol for the team that is the main rival of your hometown team, to an empty plate which symbolizes hunger, to a nametag imaginarily worn by kids’ non-friends in school inscribed with the words “I hate you!,” or one with the word “Enemy” written on it. Be careful with this. Be sure not to indict anyone present with your characterization of “the enemy!”
- Find and print, or have ready to display on your mobile device, one of the countless lovely paintings of Paul from the renaissance era, such as Rembrandt’s rendering of Paul in prison. He is almost always depicted in classic art with a sword, possibly to evoke his invitation to “put on the whole armor of God,” and also possibly alluding historically to his own death by sword, being beheaded. But we won’t include that in our Kids’ Talk, okay?
Background: Read the adult lesson in Nurturing Faith and additional material online. We’ll focus children on the identity of Paul, nee Saul, who had a great reputation as a persecutor of Christians before his conversion on the road to Damascus. We’ll teach that those whom we label as enemies might become our friends if we use the gospel, and the teachings of Jesus, as a way of extending ourselves toward them.
[Display your group of nefarious items which look as if they are from an enemy.]
Say: I wonder what kind of feeling you get when you look at these things I have today. Do you know what this is? [Hold up the empty plate.]
Say: Yes, it’s a plate with no food. It means “hunger.” It can mean anything that we need and don’t have, which makes us poor, or hurts us. How about this? [Hold up the symbol from the opposing team.]
Say: Yes, this makes us want to fight, fight, fight for our team, the mighty [name of your beloved team here.] Other teams are our enemies! Fight, fight, fight! [Now hold up another item, such as the burglar photo.]
Say: How about this? Does it make you want to run? Or hide? And what about this one? Do you know some people who don’t like you? [Hold now the nametag with the words “Enemy” or “I Hate You!”]
Say: Yes. These things make us think of people who are our enemies. People who would like to hurt us. Did you know that the writer of many of the Bible books in the New Testament was Paul? And did you know that, before his name was Paul, and before he wrote the beautiful things in all the letters he sent which we have saved in our Bible, that he went by another name, Saul? Did you know he was a captain in the Roman government, and he used to chase down and catch people who were Jesus-followers? Yes! Paul used to be a bad guy! He was an enemy of Jesus-followers! They stayed as far from him as they could get! They hid from him! No telling what he’d do if he caught them!
Say: So when Saul was visited by the Holy Spirit, and he learned in his own heart who God is, and who Jesus is, he became the biggest Jesus-follower there was. [Now display your painting of Paul.] He changed. He changed from being Number One Enemy to being Number One Jesus-Follower. His name changed, too, so that we will remember the big change in his life. He changed from being Saul, the enemy, to being Paul, the Jesus-follower.
Say: We need to remember Paul’s story, being changed from Saul to Paul. The love and message of Jesus can change a person. It can change even people who are very hurtful, like Saul, into wonderful champions and friends, like Paul, who follow Jesus so well that they inspire all of us to follow Jesus. This is very good news.
Prayer: Say these words after I say them.
O God of hope and changing,
We pray for those
Who are enemies to us.
We pray you will change our hearts
So that we are never enemies,
But friends and Jesus-followers
In the footsteps of Paul.
Thank you that you always make it possible
That anyone can be changed,
In Jesus’ name, Amen.