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From Hate to Love

People can change

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4 - Church Schools


To recognize that people can change – sometimes dramatically!

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to familiarize yourself with the Bible story about Saul of Tarsus, which is found in Acts 9.

  • You will also need to draw a large ladder on a whiteboard. The ladder should have six rungs that are numbered from 1 to 6, with number 1 at the top. You will need to give the students some clues so that they can guess which word should go on each rung. Each step up the ladder will change one letter in the previous word so that ‘hate’ on Rung 6 gradually changes to ‘love’ on Rung 1.
    Give the following clues for each rung to the students:

    - Rung 6: to dislike intensely (hate)
    - Rung 5: to own (have)
    - Rung 4: to rescue (save)
    - Rung 3: short for David (Dave)
    - Rung 2: a bird sent out from Noah’s ark (dove)
    - Rung 1: to like intensely (love)

  • You will need two readers for the Bible passages, Acts 9.3–12 and Acts 9.13–19. Alternatively, retell the story from the passage.


  1. Ask the students if there is anything they are passionate about. Football, a particular movie star, a favourite pop group, a type of pizza? What happens if someone disagrees with them? Give an example that is relevant to your school, for example, state that the local football team is the best and all other teams are useless!

    Ask a few students for their reactions to the statement.

    Sometimes, we can be very stubborn and forceful when we are sure that we are right and others are wrong!

  2. There is a story in the Bible about a man named Saul. He lived in Tarsus about the time that Jesus was crucified. Saul was a Jew who took great care to keep every law of God and expected others to do the same. After Jesus’ resurrection and the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples started to cause quite a stir. They spoke openly about Jesus, they taught about the words that Jesus had said and they even healed people just like Jesus had done! Hundreds of people decided to become followers of Jesus. Saul, like many other religious Jews, was horrified. He hated these ‘Jesus followers’, who seemed to have the knack of causing your blood to boil with their strong, powerful and uncomfortable words.

    One follower of Jesus, called Stephen, was killed because he was not willing to turn his back on being a Christian. Saul was present when Stephen was killed and was in total agreement.
    On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem and the new believers were scattered or dragged off and thrown into prison. Saul set off to search for any of Jesus’ followers who might have escaped. While he was on his way to a place called Damascus, an amazing thing happened to him.

  3. Reader 1 should read Acts 9.3–12.

    Reader 2 should read Acts 9.13–19.

  4. After this, Saul spent several days with the disciples and was soon telling everybody the message about Jesus. It wasn’t long before Saul’s own life was threatened. His own people, the Jews, wanted him out of the way. Now he was on the receiving end of hate! Later, when Saul tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, they were all afraid of him, thinking that he was a spy who was plotting to catch them out. It wasn’t an easy time for Saul. Now he was the outsider. He was mistrusted, treated cruelly, imprisoned and beaten, but God had changed his life from hating to loving, even loving his enemies. Saul (who later changed his name to Paul) became a messenger of love and forgiveness everywhere he travelled.

  5. Show the ladder to the students and read out the clues. Let the students suggest which letters should be changed as the ladder is climbed.

  6. Point out that sometimes, the road from hate to love can be very short. For example, someone might say sorry straight after an incident and it can all be over and done with quickly. However, sometimes, the road from hate to love can be very long. Even if this is the case, it is a road worth travelling. When we hate, the person who really suffers the most is the person doing the hating.

Time for reflection

Is there someone in our lives whom we hate, or at least dislike intensely?

Consider honestly for a few minutes: how does this hatred make you feel?

Sometimes, something bad has happened to us and we feel deeply hurt. In situations like this, it is best to talk to someone you trust about it, such as a teacher, a friend or a school counsellor.

However, sometimes, we don’t really have a reason to hate. Maybe we just find a person difficult to get on with. Maybe someone said something that hurt us years ago and we have never forgiven them. Let’s think carefully about whether we need to forgive and move on from hatred. Remember that the people whom Saul hated eventually became his best friends!

Dear God,
Thank you that you always want to forgive us.
Please help us to be honest about our thoughts, our feelings and our actions towards others.
Please help us to choose the way of love.

Publication date: September 2016   (Vol.18 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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