Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 13
Suggested Emphasis: Show love to everyone.
Memory Verse: So these three things continue forever: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13, ICB
The church in Corinth had a lot of problems and Paul addresses those in these two letters he writes to them. All of their bickering and selfishness amongst each other could be solved if they practised one thing—LOVE. In this chapter, Paul gives very practical advice on what love is and how to practice it.
We first learned of the city of Corinth when Paul visited there during his second missionary journey (Acts chapter 18). He had made his home there for a year and a half and managed to teach both Jews and Greeks about Christ. While in Corinth Paul financially supported himself by working with Priscilla and Aquila in the tent-making trade.
Now, time has passed and Paul has long since left Corinth. He is writing letters of instruction back to them. Reading through this first letter we soon discover that this church has many problems. The Corinthian Christians are not unified and caring for one another. There are sharp disagreements and some members are even taking each other to court to solve things between them. Many are acting selfishly. Also, the church is not correcting people who are sinning so there is a sin problem in the church.
Despite all of these problems God has not given up on the Corinthian church. The church is even practising spiritual gifts. Even so, the church has many lessons to learn about how to love and obey God and how to love and respect other people.
And this chapter of love is also important to us today. Children and adults have many things to learn about love. The word “love” is used in many ways and in many contexts in our lives. We love God. We love each other within a family or marriage. We love our friends. The word can also be so common as loving food or sports teams or hobbies.
But “love” is more than just a word and it is more than just a feeling. 1 Corinthians 13 reveals that love is expressed in attitudes and actions.
Most importantly, understanding and practising love is key to knowing God.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8, ICB
Our love for God and love for others are deeply connected. Jesus understood this when he answered questions from religious leaders.
“One of the teachers of the law came to Jesus. He heard Jesus arguing with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He saw that Jesus gave good answers to their questions. So he asked Jesus, “Which of the commands is most important?”
Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God, he is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God. Love him with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’[a] The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’[b] These two commands are the most important commands.” Mark 12:28-31, ICB
Hearts have long been used to depict love. Younger children think literally so take the time to explain the connection between the heart and the meaning of love. Paul explained love in practical ways to do the same but in ways a child understands. True love means loving with our hearts and our thoughts and in our words and actions. True love means showing love to people even if we are not in the mood or tired or even angry with someone. This is the kind of love that Jesus was talking about when he said to even love our enemies and people who treat us badly (Matthew 5:43-48).
An outline of what Paul writes in his letter about love:
- verses 1-3: No matter how many good things we might do they mean nothing if they are not done from a loving heart.
- verses 4-7: Love is practical and is expressed in how we think, speak and act. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
- verses 8-12: Love lasts forever and the Christian will spend a lifetime understanding it more clearly and practising it in increasing measure. When all other actions and events of this earth have passed love will remain for eternity.
- verse 13: Faith and hope are also eternal but love is the greatest of all.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Before class cut out a large paper heart. “Children, I am going to pass this heart around to each one of you. You each have thirteen seconds to write or draw on the heart one thing that you love.” Repeat this activity for a few rounds and count to 13 each time. After there is a good selection of words on the heart then read some of them off to the class. “We can love food, our pets, friends, girlfriend, our parents, God . . .but are all of these kinds of love the same? Of course not. We do not love ice cream in the same way we love God!
Today we are going to learn about a special kind of true love that God wants us to feel in our hearts, think about in our minds, speak about in our words and show in our actions.
Does anyone wonder why I counted to 13 each time we wrote on our big hearts? I was actually giving you a clue about today’s lesson. Some very important words about love are recorded in our Bibles in the book of 1 Corinthians. Does anyone want to guess what chapter in 1 Corinthians is the chapter about love? 1 Corinthians chapter 13!
The Apostle Paul helped many people learn to understand how to follow God. Sometimes he talked to people and sometimes he wrote letters. Paul knew that the Christians in the city of Corinth had many problems so he decided to write letters to the whole church. In our Bible, these are called the letters to the Corinthians.
One important lesson the Corinthians needed to learn was about what it really means to LOVE other people. They were not showing love to each other, even in the church.
But what about us? Do you think we need to learn how to love other people better? I do!
So let’s listen to what Paul writes about love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
The first thing is that it doesn’t matter how many good things we do if we do not do them with a loving heart. If we do not have a loving heart then all of these good things mean nothing at all.
- Being able to speak in many languages or even speaking like an angel doesn’t sound good if we do not speak them with love. In fact, without love, beautiful words just sound like a noisy bell or a loud cymbal.
- If we are very clever or even if we understand all of the secrets of God it doesn’t matter if we do not have love.
- We may believe in God SO much and have so much faith we could move a mountain but it means absolutely nothing if we do not have love.
- It is such a good thing to give money to help poor people but even if we give ALL of our money to help people or even gave up our life doing good things it would be worth nothing to God if we did not have love.
Love is not just thinking about yourself and doing things just to make your own life better. Love is also thinking about other people and speaking and acting in ways that will make THEIR lives better.
Love is not just a feeling in your heart or just how you act. Love is BOTH a feeling AND an action. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians chapter 13 he gave some very practical ideas about what real love is.
- Love is patient.
- Love is kind.
- Love is not jealous.
- It does not brag
- and it is not proud.
- Love is not rude
- is not selfish
- and does not become angry easily.
- Love does not remember wrongs done against it.
- Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices over the truth.
- Love patiently accepts all things.
- It always trusts
- always hopes
- and always continues strong
Love never ends. There are gifts of prophecy, but they will be ended. There are gifts of speaking in different languages, but those gifts will end. There is the gift of knowledge, but it will be ended. These things will end, because this knowledge and these prophecies we have are not complete. But when perfection comes, the things that are not complete will end.
At the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 13, Paul writes that the longer we live the more we should understand about love. Many of the good things we can do on this earth end. (We know this to be true, don’t we? Summer holidays end. Toys break. Clothes wear out. Flowers, animals and even people grow old and eventually die.)
But Paul tells the Corinthian Christians to think about three very important things that will continue forever. These are Faith, Hope and Love. And guess which one of these three Paul said was the greatest? You guessed it! Love.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download the slideshow or click here to download the pictures to print.
Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- Where do we find the chapter on love in the bible? 1 Corinthians 13
- Name something that Love is: (any of these) patient, kind, happy with the truth, patiently accepts all things, always trusts, always hopes, always continues strong, never-ending.
- Name something that Love is not or does not do: (any of these) not jealous, does not brag, is not proud, not rude, not selfish, does not become angry easily, does not remember wrongs done against it, and is not happy with evil.
- Ha-la-la-la Song
- Hello Hello Song
- If You Love Jesus Song
- Jesus’ Love is a-Bubblin’ Over Song
- Love is Something If You Give It Away
- L-O-V-E Song
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Make a list of ways to show love this week.
- Have children write out the list of love attributes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Use dictionaries if necessary to explain and/or illustrate each of these.
- Older children could create a love challenge based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Using a small piece of paper, each child writes down a way to show love during the following week. One challenge per paper. Have the children read the challenges out loud so that you can check to see if they are appropriate (and can be accomplished in a week). Then have the children fold the papers and place them in a basket or bowl. After this each child now draws out one folded challenge. This is their challenge for the week.
- Puppet Skit for Pre-schoolers: Try using simple finger puppets or soft toys for this cute application Loving one another Puppet Skit which was submitted by Jenny Ancell, Australia. You’ll just need to change the names of the brands and stores/shops to adapt to your situation.
- Write titles across the top of blank sheets of paper (Love is Patient, Love is Kind, etc.) and let the children draw pictures depicting each one. You could do the same with a long roll of newsprint.
- Do any craft using a heart. Adapt Valentine’s Day crafts.
- Let the children cut hearts out of pink or red paper and write parts of the verse on each heart. Provide flat chocolate bars and show the children how to wrap their paper around them. Give these away as gifts.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets (Calvary Curriculum)
- Colouring page, Colour the border for I Corinthians 13 (teacherhelp.org)
- Colouring page of children playing (christiananswers.net)
- Craft: Adapt this “curved-flap Valentine Card” by substituting today’s verse for the Valentine message. Printable pattern for card (Enchanted learning)
- Craft: Printable envelope and verses about the heart (thecraftyclassroom.com)
- Worksheet for pre-school “Same and Different Hearts” (abcteach.com)
- Printable patterns of young child (boy or girl) holding a heart-suits pre-schoolers (makinglearningfun.com)
- Paraphrase of I Corinthians 13 that is easy for children to understand (anabaptists.org)