This Is Their Life

Scripture: Luke 13

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn that Jesus cares about our problems.
  • Students will learn that Jesus did many good things to help while he was here on earth.
  • Students will learn that God wants us to have empathy for other people.
  • Students will participate in activities to better understand and practice empathy.

Guiding Question: How can we care about the problems of other people the way Jesus did?

Materials: different types of shoes, shoeboxes with three items – each shoebox should have items in it that represent one person – the shoeboxes should include many types of people; different types of shoes, paper, pens or pencils

Procedure: Review the story of the stooped woman. Ask the students why Jesus cared about the woman and her disability. Have them imagine and share what they think her life might have been like living in the time of Jesus when there weren’t good doctors and hospitals and disabled people were often considered cursed and abandoned by their families to be beggars on the streets.

Explain to the students that the ability to understand what another person is feeling from their viewpoint is called empathy. Ask the students how they think empathy is different from sympathy. (Sympathy is feeling pity or sorrow for someone else. When you feel sympathy you aren’t necessarily trying to see the world from that person’s viewpoint but rather from your own.)

Divide the students into small groups. Give each group a different pair of shoes. Ask the groups to spend a couple of minutes deciding whom the shoes belong to and what that person’s life is like. Have the groups share their answers with the rest of the class. When everyone has shared point out that while those are very good guesses, those shoes could also have belonged to someone very different from the person they described.

Ask the students why they picked the person they did as the type of person who wore those shoes. Point out that often we assume things based on other people we have known and then assuming everyone like them is like about everything. So for example if they knew a grandma who wore flip flops they might have guessed that the pair of flip flops you gave them belonged to a little old lady.

Explain that when we take something we can see about a person and assume that everyone that has the same thing we see is exactly alike – it is called a stereotype. So if they met an old man who was allergic to peanut butter, they might assume that all old men are allergic to peanut butter. Explain that the truth is two people who look alike may actually have fewer things in common than people who don’t look alike. For example two men who don’t like any of the same things might have less in common than a man and a woman who liked doing all of the same things.

Hand each group a shoebox. Have them take a few minutes to figure out who chose the items in the shoebox. Have them share their answers with the group. Explain that if you had put the people in the front of the room and asked the students which box belonged to which person they could have made their choices based n prejudices – prejudging someone based on one part of their appearance or personality. For example, assuming a Latino boy had the box with the soccer ball because all Latinos love soccer. Prejudices can be positive or negative, but they are all dangerous as are stereotypes – because they convince us we don’t have to get to know someone and who thy really are – we can just guess what they are like because of the way they look.

Point out that in the Bible story Jesus could have ignored the stooped woman because “all disabled people don’t belong in society and wouldn’t care about God”, Jesus could see into her heart though and know she loved God. Since we can’t see into the hearts of people like Jesus, what can we do to really get to know someone’s heart? (Ask questions to get to know them better.) Discuss how when we first meet someone new we start asking questions. If we have a lot of things in common we may become friends. If we don’t have a lot of things in common we may walk away and not really get to know them any better. The problem is that creates distance between people. Our brains are wired so that if there is too much distance between us and another person our brains make them into “robots” – a person who isn’t really human and doesn’t have a soul – someone not worth loving and caring about what happens to them. Having empathy and working hard to find things we have in common will make that distance less – helping us to love and care for people like Jesus did.

Have the students return to their groups. Have the groups come up with five or so questions that would be good questions to ask someone to help them quickly find out things in common so you can make the distance smaller and want to treat them like Jesus would. (If time allows begin by giving the groups two questions – “What is the weirdest thing everyone in your group has eaten?” and “What is the weirdest tourist attraction everyone in your group has visited?” After a couple of minutes ask the groups how difficult it was to come up with the answers. Point out that some questions actually make it more difficult to find things in common, while others like “What are some of your favorite foods?” make it easier to find common ground.) Have groups share their questions. Encourage the students to take extra time this week to get to know the people in their lives a little better and try to find things they have in common. Challenge them to especially try this with people whom they think they have nothing in common. Ask them to see if they can ask questions that will reveal the things they do have in common with that person.

Additional Question:

  • What are some ways Christians can help disabled people today?

Supplemental Activity: Have the students research the various ways Christians are helping disabled people around the world today. Encourage students to share their findings with other. Students may want to help one of these groups in some way.