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This Assembly idea about love your enemy, and pray for those who hurt you could have been based on the story of the good Samaritan.  However, that’s one of those stories that is often used, and so I thought it would be good to find a different story.  When telling stories for kids its often useful to change the perspective of the story so as to tell it from a different point of view.  It brings a tension and a freshness to the telling, for you as much as the children.  They only discover the important parts of the story on the way through.

Beginning

Ask:  who has a friend?

What kind of things do they like doing with their friends?

Do they buy them things, do fun things with them?  Care for them when they are unhappy?

What about people you don’t like.  Do you, or should you, be the same to them?

You’ll probably get the answer that you should be nice to people who don’t like you.  or at least avoid them.

 

who derserves friendship?

Jesus said, love your enemy, and pray for those who hurt you.  Here’s a retelling of a  true story that you will find in the bible (Acts chapter 16-34)


Tell the story

Many years ago, a little time after Jesus died, and then went into heaven.  And if you know the story, just after the disciples were filled with God’s power by the Holy Spirit, there was a jailor.

Now jailors in those days were not the richest of men.  They got to live in the jail with their families, kind of like a house next door.  It was a very responsible job.

The kind of job that someone like a gladiator would have, once they had finished all the fighting in the arena.  Gladiators that survived were tough men, hardened fighters.  You didn’t mess with them.  You also don’t mess with the Roman soldiers.  Those who survived the fighting and came back home, they also got jobs as jailors.  They knew what it was to be hard, to fight, and to be tough.

And they knew that if they failed at their job, they would die.  And their families would also probably be killed.

Agapeus was such a roman.  He had been a soldier…and then been a gladiator.  At last he had won his freedom to be whoever he wanted to be. He chose to be a jailor. He married, had a family, and now was living quite happily in Phillipi.  Well, I say happy.  He was a warrior, a jailor.  He was rarely happy (except when he closed the door to the jail each night and didn’t have to look at the miserable people the Romans had locked up.  Especially non-Romans.

He really didn’t like those who weren’t Romans.  They were trouble makers.  As a professional gladiator for five years he had had to fight people who weren’t Romans.  And he hated them.  He treated each person as the worst enemy he had ever fought.  He didn’t fight the people who were put in his prison, but he did hate them still.  And he made sure they knew it.

True…he wasn’t allowed to hit the people in his prison.  But he was allowed to say really horrible things to them.  And to threaten them.  Just looking at them made him feel so angry.  And so it was that every day he shut the door on the jail for the night so that he didn’t have to look on their miserable faces, it made him feel a little bit better.

I say a little bit because there was always the worry that whilst he was shut up tight in his own house, someone would try and break the prisoners out of jail.  But, ha!  That wasn’t likely.  Big wooden doors and bars, huge locks and keys, which all kept the prisoners locked safely inside.  No escape!

But one day things didn’t go quite as he planned…..

It started fine.  A bit of yelling at the stupid prisoners, making them moan a bit.  Feed them weak porridge and water.   Then it was off to the local judge’s house to find out if there were any new inmates to be cruel to.  Sorry, I mean, ‘take care of’.

It was as he was going through the centre of town, just up the high street, he noticed a lot of shouting and arguing going on.  Some of the fortune tellers were yelling at the tops of their voices about some trouble that their business had been destroyed because of two meddling visitors to the town, foreigners who didn’t understand the ways of the city.

The Roman soldiers who had turned up were trying to calm things down, but it didn’t seem to be working.  At that moment, the judges themselves showed up and demanded to know what had happened.  The woman doing the most yelling answered at the top of her voice.  Over reacting a little, thought Agapeus, but it was entertaining anyway.

“These men,” yelled the woman, “have destroyed our family business!  Our slave girl is a fortune teller, she has a way of telling the fortune of complete strangers.  She demonstrated to these two gentlemen,” at this point she gestured towards the two men who were standing a little confused at the centre of the crowd, “her skills, and they…they “

She seemed suddenly overcome with emotion and looked as though she would burst into tears….

“They used magic powers or something to stop her from working!  we are ruined!!!!! We have no money!”

The judges made a very quick decision.  Of course, how aweful!  It was like theft.  Right there and then they ordered the soldiers to arrest them, and immediately to hit them with whips, their clothes be ripped, and generally beat them up!

The spotted Agapeus in the crowd, and as soon as they finished hurting the two prisoners they were handed over to him.  Oh great, thought Agapeus, more work.  More foreign people who are going to be trouble in my jail.  Well I’m not going to bandaged their wounds or anything, its tough.

And with those thoughts in his him, he grabbed the two strangers, dragged them back to the jail, and clamped their feet (very roughly), yelled at them as much as possible, slammed the huge wooden doors and bars, and decided he would leave them there with nothing until the next morning.  All the time, though, no matter how harshly he treated them, they kept talking to him.  Kept telling him that they knew he was just doing his job, and how they still forgave him.  They told him that they believed in some guy called Jesus who was really the son of God, who had been killed then by God’s power had been brought back to life from the dead.  This Jesus died and the rose again so that everyone who believed in him would be forgiven of their sins, the stuff they did wrong.  God would forgive them.

Agapeus hated strangers with strange ideas.  And these ideas made him feel odd inside.  he couldn’t get them out of his head.  Anyway, it was only lunchtime now, that should give them time to cool off.

The rest of the day was the same old same old.  More slop for the prisoners, apart from the new ones, he wanted to be cruel to them a bit more.  In a strange way, he was actually enjoying seeing their pain.  But he really couldn’t get out of his head what they said about being saved from his sins and the wrong things he had done….

Tea time came and went, and at last, it was time for him to shut up the prison for the night, slam and lock the biggest door of all to keep the prisoners nice and tight inside for the night, and go home next door to his own family.

If I were to tell you what happened during the evening, and describe how ten huge men broke into the prison, overcoming Agapeus in a mighty battle, you’d probably want me to describe the fight scene.  Unfortunatly I can’t because there was no battle.  The only thing there was was, er, singing.

Singing.

La de da de dum, singing.

From the two new prisoners.  They were singing songs about some God of theirs that he had never heard of before.  They started singing some time around 10 o’clock in the evening.  It was disturbing his kids.

As night went on you’d expect them to stop.  But they didn’t.  They kept singing.  Right into the night!  He buried his head under the pillows.  He couldn’t block out the sound.  And the more he tried the more he just kept thinking ‘you can be forgiven of your sins.  You can be saved from death.’  Why couldn’t he stop those thoughts?  And why couldn’t they just stop SINGING!!!!  But it just carried on.

Suddenly, at exactly midnight there was a huge earthquake.  Not unusual for the area, but it was so big the very foundations of the jail and the jailors house were shaken.  The doors of the jailors own house were shaken from their hinges.  For a moment, all went quiet, the jailor most worried about if his wife and children were ok.  Then suddenly he realised there was a bigger problem – if his doors had fallen off, what about…..!

He lept out of bed.  Ran outside, and sure enough all the doors of the prison were open!  More than that, somehow all the prisoners chains had fallen off.  All he could see where chain lying on the floor.

But that meant…if the prisoners had escaped then then the Romans would hold him responsible,  And that meant death!  He would be killed, and family too.

There was only one thing for it.  One last hope for keeping his family alive.  He would have to, he could hardlythink of it, kill himself!  It was what they did in those days. They called it ‘falling on your sword.’ He took out his sword, and was about to……

“Hold on!  Don’t do anything!”

The jailor looked round.  There were the two strangers, the two foreigners.  The one’s he had been so cruel to.  They were standing there, at the back of the jail in the shadows which is why he hadn’t seen them when he first walked in.  They weren’t in chains any more, but rather than running away they were just stood there!  They carried on speaking to him.

“Don’t kill yourself.  Its ok, we are all still here.”

Agapeus was confused, relieved, frightened.  Who were these men, the ones who took away the little slave girls power…and somehow were at the the centre of the earthquake.  It seemed impossible.  But his head just kept screaming the words over and over…and suddenly they errupted out of his mouth:

“What must I do to be saved?”  he yelled.  It seemed the most obvious thing to say once he’d said it.  He wanted to be saved from being killed by the Romans for letting these prisoners escape…but the words meant more.  Was he also asking about how to be saved from his sin, the very thoughts that had gone through his head over and over ever since the strangers arrived?

And now they spoke.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole family.”  And they went on and explained about how Jesus was.  He took them to his family, and bandaged their wounds and took care of them.  And that night he and his family all believed in Jesus.  They all became Christians.

 

Make the point of how to love your enemy

Jesus said love your enemy.  He said it is easy to love your friends, but God loves those who don’t love him first.  And we must do the same.  In this true story, that’s exactly what Paul and Silas, the names of the two strangers, did for Agapeus.  They had every reason to consider themselves enemies of Agapeus.  Agapeus hurt them, and was cruel to them.  God was the one who freed them, through the earthquake, and Agapeus would have got what he deserved if they had run away.

But they didn’t.  Instead they did what Jesus said.  They loved their enemy.  They loved agapeus.

How you can love and pray for your enemy

What can you do?

Ask: how do you think you could love your enemy.  Imagine the person you don’t like, maybe they make you feel sad.  What could you do? (get some feedback)

Here are some ideas I found on the internet

7 Ways You Can Love Your Enemies

  1. Greet Them
  2. Disarm Them
  3. Do Good To Them
  4. Refuse To Speak Evil Of Them
  5. Thank God For Them
  6. Forgive Them
  7. Bless Them

(the things you pray for yourself, pray for them)

(Ray Pritchard…from Facebook)

Could you do that?

Lets pray… (say a prayer which backs up these statements).

Additional idea

This is a great little animation I found on youtube about building bridges to your enemies no matter what they do.  If there is time, watch the video at some point either before the story to introduce the theme, or else just before the 7 ideas.  Again, if there is time, ask for what the kids think about caring and being nice to people they don’t like.

http://www.clipconverter.cc/ is a great converter program for offline in schools.