This morning, after an energetic hula hoop contest, our 3rd-graders marched to the big group, where they learned about Jesus' teaching of the greatest commandment, to love God, and the second-greatest, to love others.
When we returned to the classroom, I wrote these two words on the big dry-erase board:
I asked the kids to draw something on the board to represent Commandments and Blessings. One child drew Jesus teaching; another drew a present. The kids remembered that the greatest commandment is to love God. So at that point... this is what our board looked like.
The greatest commandment is to love God, but the Bible makes it clear that "We love because he (God) first loved us." 1 John 4:19. Because God loves us, he wants good things for us, just like our earthly fathers want good things for us. The kids got a kick out of Matthew 7:9-12, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" The next verse, verse 12, is very pertinent to the the lesson: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
The reason God commands us, first and foremost, to love God is that it leads to many wonderful blessings, the greatest of which is to have a close walk with Jesus, or to abide in him. This is what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden, where they walked with God in the cool of the evening. This is what all believers and followers of Jesus will experience once we graduate from this life, and that will last forever! But we can also experience a loving relationship with Jesus right now, through faith in Jesus. That relationship is characterized by prayer, reading his word, worshipping, obeying and serving him, and by loving others.
So here is our updated board:
Now that I reflect... it's really amazing that we kept the kids' attention for this long, but we kept going! The kids remembered that the second-greatest commandment is to love others. I asked my fellow teacher this question, "If the greatest commandment, to love God, leads to the greatest blessing, to have a close walk with Jesus... what blessing does loving others lead to?" I wasn't sure of the answer, but Tiffany nailed it! She explained that when we love others, that leads to loving relationships with other people, such as our family members, friends, neighbors, fellow church members, etc. Now our board was complete.
It was time to get the kids up and active again so we brought out the hula hoops. We placed them on the ground and then had the kids form a line (ladies first). When Tiffany or I said an activity, the kids were to hop into, and then out of, either the hula hoop on the left, which represented Love God, or the one on the right that represented Love Others. The first activity was praying. Two of the kids hopped to indicate that praying was related to loving God. But then one hopped into Love Others and explained that we can pray for other people. Wow! That's right. OK, but this next one was pretty straightforward, we thought: reading the Bible. A few hopped in and out of the Love God hula hoop, but then one hopped to Love Others and explained that we can read the Bible to or with other people, and that might be especially important if they don't know Jesus. Again... wow! By now, Tiffany and I were catching on so we were not surprised when the last activity, obeying your parents, was a demonstration of both loving and obeying God and others (your parents).
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for teaching Sunday School today!