As I was reading through October’s lessons, I was very excited about the focus on Christ and love. The lessons on the Come Follow Me website are very good. In this lesson, I tried to get away from the cerebral aspects of “we need to love everyone” and go into the “how” to love everyone.
The week before the lesson, I think it would be good to ask the students to spend time thinking of their favorite story of Jesus. You could ask some of the older girls who studied New Testament last year in seminary to share a story they learned about that was important to them to share with the younger girls, or you could ask everyone to spend some time reading in the Gospels this week in their personal study. Then when you start class, you could ask each to share the story they picked and write it on the board in a list.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a class that doesn’t know that loving one another is a commandment, but starting with reading John 13:34, Matthew 22:34-40, or Moroni 7:47 would be a nice, straightforward way to introducing the topic.
I think that we all know that we “should” love each other, but where we get hung up on is actually doing the loving. I want to address many of the practicalities involved in showing Christlike love.
We can’t develop Christlike love if we are not aware of the needs around us and within ourselves. Before his ministry, Christ prayed and fasted for 40 days. With the JST of Matthew 4:1, the verse states, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God.” This time of prayer and fasting prepared him to start serving the people around him. Ask the class about ways that we can learn and practice awareness. Ideas include prayer, fasting, meditation, journalling, doing physical activity (eg. some runners say that running helps clear their minds), being in nature, etc. I would also share with the class that it is important to learn to be aware of your own needs. The commandment is to love others as thyself. Part of your awareness is thinking on, “Are my own needs met? Do I have energy to give to others?” It is ok to nourish yourself. On the other hand, we can also find ourselves thinking, though, that we are “too busy” to think of others and developing awareness will help us know when we are being honest with ourselves. Be honest about needing to take time for yourself and be honest about knowing when you have the ability to stretch for others.
Loving How Others Need to be Loved
In the list on the board, you can see that Christ served people in many different ways and he served them in ways that they needed. He didn’t only heal a person from blindness who needed healing from leprosy. There is a popular book called The Five Love Languages and in it Gary Chapman suggests 5 ways in which people feel love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch. Some people feel love stronger one way than in others. For example, you may go to your younger brother’s soccer games and cheer him on (words of affirmation), but his “love language” may be receiving gifts and he might feel love better if you make up the rest of the cost for the Lego set he’s been saving up for. Or maybe you were showing love to your sister by helping make her bed every day (acts of service), but physical touch might be her love language and would feel more love if you braided her hair for her before school. Everyone is different, and it’s kind of a puzzle to figure out (and you can always just ask).
It might be a fun activity to label the list of Christ stories by the love language it represents. I’ve listed some examples:
Acts of Service: healing and casting out spirits, the Atonement
Have the girls brainstorm ways they can love others that fit the various love languages. They can do this on the board or in personal notebooks.
Overcoming Barriers to Loving Others
In a separate list on the board, or in personal notebooks, ask the class to come up with a list of obstacles that get in the way of us loving the people around us. This list can be varied and include things like schedule conflicts, distance, busy with other things, estrangement. Some of those barriers can be easy to work around: can’t show love to your grandmother who lives far away? Write her a letter or call her on the phone. Other barriers take deep personal reflection.
President Uchtdorf’s talk, The Merciful Obtain Mercy, gives us examples of where we might struggle in loving others. Have a student read the section, “The Way of the Disciple.”
It is hard to see and admit our faults, but learning to apologize and let go of grudges and hurt are important skills to learn. You might ask if any of the girls have experience with this or know of examples that they look up to in their lives of people who gracefully acknowledge when they are wrong and fix things. Maybe share an example from your life. Because of the personal and sometimes embarrassing nature of overcoming faults, no one may want to share a story from their own lives, but I think giving time to ponder on this is important. I would probably share this from Uchtdorf’s talk and let them think on it.
We are not perfect. The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way. Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way. Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
I would also remind the class that sometimes if there is strong estrangement, we might not be able to change the way someone thinks about us and that’s ok. We can’t force people to change, but we can change the way we think and feel about them.
Developing Christlike love takes time. It would be nice if we could just tell ourselves, “Ok, I love everyone!” but it is much harder to act on that love and to remember. Personal prayer and meditation can help you become more aware of the people around you. Trying new ways to show love might show you that others need love in lots of different ways. Overcoming obstacles will bring us closer to our friends and family and even “enemies.”
I hope this lesson plan allows the students to find practical ways to better love themselves and them people around them in Christlike ways.