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Unconditional Friendship

Who are our friends and how do we treat them?

by Richard Lamey

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To consider what it means to be a friend by using the friendship of Jesus and Peter.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available three chairs set out in a line at the front of the room.

  • You will need to be familiar with the following stories, although a brief outline is given below:

    - Jesus walks on water (Matthew 14.22-33)
    - Peter says he will never leave Jesus (Matthew 26.35)
    - Peter denies knowing Jesus (Luke 22.54-62)
    - Jesus forgives Peter (John 21.15-17)

  • You will also need a wrapped, empty box made to look like a present, for use during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.

Assembly

  1. Ask for three volunteers to sit on the chairs at the front of the room to form a panel. Explain that you want the panel, and the rest of the students, to listen carefully and decide whether the people in these stories are being good friends to each other.

  2. Read the following passage, retell this part of Peter’s story in your own words or read the relevant passage from the Bible.

    Jesus Walks on Water

    The disciples were in a boat on the lake when suddenly, they noticed Jesus walking towards them – he was walking on the water.

    Peter asked Jesus if he could walk on water, too. Jesus said yes, so Peter climbed out of the boat and began to do what Jesus said. However, when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he was frightened and began to sink. Jesus took hold of him and they climbed into the boat together.

    Ask the panel whether they think this is a good example of friendship. Why?

    Listen to a range of responses and open up the discussion to the rest of the students.

  3. Read the following passage, retell this part of Peter’s story in your own words or read the relevant passage from the Bible.

    Peter Says He Will Never Leave Jesus

    Peter had been a follower of Jesus for some time. They had travelled together, laughed together and eaten together. Peter had seen Jesus perform many miracles and had listened to him teach. Peter had been part of many of the amazing things that Jesus had done.

    However, one day, something awful happened. Jesus and Peter were sitting together with the other disciples celebrating a special festival called the Passover. During the meal, Jesus announced that all of the disciples would leave him. Peter insisted that he would never leave Jesus.

    Ask the panel whether they think this is a good example of friendship. Why? (You are directing answers to discuss Peter’s desire to be a good friend and that at this moment, he was determined that he would stand up for Jesus. Peter’s actual denial will be discussed in the next story.)

    Listen to a range of responses and open up the discussion to the rest of the students.

  4. Read the following passage, retell this part of Peter’s story in your own words or read the relevant passage from the Bible.

    Peter Denies Knowing Jesus

    Peter had said that he would never leave Jesus and would even die for him, but he soon realized that he had spoken too soon. Just a few hours later, Jesus was arrested and Peter denied having ever known Jesus. Even worse than that, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times to three different people. After the third denial, the cock crowed and Jesus looked directly at Peter. Peter felt so ashamed that he cried bitterly.

    Ask the panel whether they think this is a good example of friendship. Why?

    Listen to a range of responses and open up the discussion to the rest of the students.

  5. Read the following passage, retell this part of Peter’s story in your own words or read the relevant passage from the Bible.

    Jesus Forgives Peter

    After Jesus had died and come back to life again, he joined his disciples on the beach, where he cooked them breakfast. When breakfast was over, Jesus took Peter for a walk. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. As Peter answered, Jesus made it clear that he forgave Peter for denying that he knew him. Jesus made it clear that there was still a wonderful plan for Peter’s life.

    Ask the panel whether they think this is a good example of friendship. Why?

    Listen to a range of responses and open up the discussion to the rest of the students.

  6. Explain that Jesus and Peter had a close friendship. Peter had been very privileged by seeing many miracles and hearing many amazing things. However, he still messed things up and caused a rift in their friendship. Despite this, Jesus never stopped loving Peter. He forgave him and restored him to the position of leader among the disciples.

  7. Christians believe that God’s love for people is unconditional. This means that when any of us does something wrong, God still loves us and he always will.

  8. Jesus’ friendship with Peter is a challenge to us. It is an example of what true friendship can be: real friends love unconditionally; real friends help each other; and real friends say sorry and forgive.

  9. A school can be a good place to learn about unconditional love. In the school family, we can learn that mistakes can be forgiven, that a new start is always possible and that respect, care and love are important.

Time for reflection

Christians believe that God sent Jesus into the world to offer friendship with God. They believe that Jesus was God’s gift to the world.

Hold up the present.

Christians believe that Jesus showed us what true friendship looks like – it is unconditional, it forgives and it thinks of other people. It is kind, compassionate and loving, and it keeps no record of wrongs.

Let’s pause to think about that for a few moments.

Pause to allow time for thought.

What one thing could you do today to offer the free, precious gift of friendship to somebody?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Who do you know in your year group who is often left out and needs the gift of friendship from you?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Who do you need to make friends with again because, like Peter, it has all gone wrong?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for our friends.
Please help us to be good friends to other people.
Please help us to treat others with respect.
Please help us to look out for people who are struggling to make friends and to take the time to care.
Amen.

Publication date: October 2018   (Vol.20 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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