Children’s Message on Prejudice vs. Sympathy
Scripture Reference: 1 Peter 3:8 – 9
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
Preparation: Bring a fly swatter and an example creepy crawly with you to illustrate the sermon.
Have any of you ever been scared by an insect or an animal? (Let children respond.) What is your reaction if a moth or a grasshopper or a spider lands on your arm? If you are nervous or frightened of the creature, you shoo it away or go find the swatter and kill it. (Here you may share your own story of an encounter with a creepy crawly. My example follows.) The other night, I was climbing the steps of our cabin to turn the light on at the top of the stairs, when my shin brushed a spider web. I stopped and looked down to see that a spider had built a large web across the top of the staircase. This spider was huge! It seemed like it had built the web just to trap me and wrap me up. Compared to me, of course, this spider was small, but because I was scared, I still felt intimidated. I went back downstairs, grabbed a swatter and finished off the spider before it could scare me again.
We don’t like to feel scared. Some things that scare us, are just living their lives and not trying to scare us, but we sometimes react by wanting to hurt the thing that frightens us. If we are not scared of something, like butterflies, for example, we tend to leave them alone.
If I were a spider myself, would I want to go around killing all the spiders like me? Probably not. I would understand spiders better and consider spiders to be beautiful.
In 1 Peter 3:8, the Bible says, “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” To be sympathetic or to have sympathy, you must understand another person and share their feelings. If you have sympathy, you will feel sad if you see someone else crying. If you have sympathy, you will no longer be afraid of another person. Perfect love casts out all fear.
God wants us to first understand the person, to first love the person, and then to share the Gospel. Although we might want to make another person more like ourselves so that we would no longer fear that person, God does not want us to make clones of ourselves. God wants to make each person more like Jesus. God wants a direct connection with each individual. Each person is very different, but God loves each individual for who they are.
Spiders have a job to do that is different from the job that I am meant to do. They are very different from me, just as many people in this world are very different from me. God calls us to be sympathetic; to humbly put ourselves in another person’s place.
So, think about swatting vs. sympathizing. Which is the best way to share God’s love? If I swat a spider, do I learn anything about spiders? Do I learn what they eat or why they build webs or how they are good for our environment? No. I just learn that I can kill a spider by swatting it. If I never listen to someone that is very different than me explain why they are the way that they are, do I ever learn anything about that person? If I swat them down with my words when they try to talk to me, will they listen to me when I tell them that Jesus loves them? Probably not. Sympathizing is better than swatting. Jesus sympathized. He did not swat. Jesus listened and loved and shared the Good News of God’s love.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for listening and loving. Teach us not to swat at those who are different than us. Help us instead to sympathize and love and listen. Help us to be humble witnesses for you.