Note to the Teacher
The reading for today contains images and words of sexual promiscuity. The key theme in this lesson is “Hard to Love.” The icebreaker encourages the youth to do some hard name unscrambling. The discussion asks students to think about how God’s love for us is “risky” and how we are called to love people who may be “hard to love.” The activity looks at trying to demonstrate love to our peers and then asking why it might be hard to do this for people we find hard to love. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but maybe adjusted.
1. Icebreaker: Bible Unscramble (10 minutes)
Look at Matthew 1:1. Have ready a few notecards with ten names from Matthew 1 scrambled already. Give students the notecards. Challenge students to open their Bibles and unscramble the names and find the right ones! You may break them up into groups and make it a competition.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture today continues with the prophet Hosea. The author is addressing Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. This book was written in the eighth century BCE! Hosea uses a lot of metaphors. Hosea is married to Gomer, who is a promiscuous woman. (Do we know what promiscuous means? Invite definitions but come back to the idea of someone who cheats or is unfaithful in a romantic relationship.) There is misconduct on the part of Gomer, but just as God does with Israel, Hosea continues to take his wife back. The reading for today throws us right into the metaphor!
Read Hosea 1:2-10.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- What we just read from Hosea describes a God who is complicated. There are anger and rules but also love and forgiveness. Hosea seems to love his wife, but Gomer doesn’t seem to return that love or honor their relationship in her choices. If I were to tell you that “God loves God’s people even if they don’t love God back,” would you agree or disagree? How does that make you feel about God? Have you ever loved someone or something that didn’t seem to love you back? Would you describe loving someone as “risky”? Why or why not?
- If the relationship between Hosea and Gomer is an allegory (a story that symbolizes something about us) for the relationship between God and people, do you think it is an allegory that makes sense—that God loves us even though we “run around” or “cheat” on God? Can you think of ways that historically, or from scripture, people have been said to have been unfaithful to God?
- Just as Hosea loves Gomer, God loves us, AND God even calls on us to love people who seem hard to love. What risks do you think come with trying to love and care for other people the way God loves us? Do those risks seem to come from things within us or things outside us such as cultural norms?
- Have you ever thought about yourself being hard to love? Who are the people who have loved you through the tough times or rough patches in your life? Do you think they were risking anything by continuing to love and care for you?
Read Luke 6:27-36.
- How does Jesus talk about love in this passage? How is it similar to the love of God in Hosea? Are the same risks we talked about earlier potential risks Jesus might ask us to take by loving our enemies?
- How might Jesus be calling you to love the people who are hard to love (or that you don’t know well enough to love) in your life?
- To be clear, this scripture passage is not calling us to lie down and simply take abuse. God is telling us to actively love people, even those who cause us problems or those with whom we are not friendly. Sometimes we have to love people at a distance. Bullies are God’s people too, but sometimes we have to take a step back for the sake of self-care. What are some ways to show love and care for someone from a distance? How do you know the right time to distance yourself from a situation or a person?
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
- Find large 11x17 paper. Regular sheets will do too.
- Write the name of each student on an individual sheet. Place the papers around the room.
- Have the students go around and write a few sentences of affirmation and love for their fellow students on the papers. At the end of the exercise, have the students grab their own sheets and read them quietly.
- Ask them how it feels to write on peers’ sheets.
- Ask the students how it feels to read their own sheets.
- Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total time: 50 minutes
- 11x17 paper or regular sheets of paper
- Writing utensils