Main Point: Even though it’s not our first reaction, the Bible commands us to show kindness to our enemies. Obeying Him will change their lives…and ours.
The Movie Clip: Cotton Candy for Bullies
The War is set in Mississippi in the era following the highly controversial Vietnam War. Lois Simmons (Mare Winningham) is married to Stephen Simmons (Kevin Costner), a shell-shocked vet who has returned home after checking himself into a mental hospital to combat the PTSD he experiences at night. Stephen struggles to keep a job because of the stigma associated with his stint in the mental hospital, which leads to even more stress at home.
The main storyline follows his two children, twins Stu (Elijah Wood) and Lidia (Lexi Randall), and their interactions with other kids in their small, southern town. In an effort to escape the troubles of their family, the twins and their friends begin to build a tree house, but are soon tormented by the local bullies, the Lipnicki kids. (In fact, the scene used in this discussion is taken from the ongoing feud between Stu and one of the Lipnicki boys.)
The movie covers themes such as race and class and dealing with loss. There are stirring moments that cause viewers to be quite angry, and other scenes that challenge viewers by way of impressive compassion. The film was rated PG-13 for “intense depiction of human struggle and conflict” but the clip below is completely free of any questionable content.
Introducing the Clip:
I want to show you a scene from an older film entitled The War. Most of you will recognize the main character, Stu, played by Elijah Wood, as the actor who played Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His father has taken him to a community gathering in the hopes of buying a cheap home for their struggling family, but the Lipnicki boys, the neighborhood bullies, show up and cause Stu trouble. After Stu gets beat up by the older Lipnicki brothers, Stu’s dad does something that greatly confuses – and infuriates – his son. Take a look for yourselves.
The Online Clip: Click the following link for the online video:
Can you imagine being in Stu’s shoes? Not only did he get tag-teamed by some local bullies, his dad seemingly adds insult to injury by giving those same jerks the cotton candy he’d bought for his wife and daughter! I want us to spend the next few minutes talking about how we treat those who hate us, or even hurt us. I know it might sound unthinkable, but the Bible commands us to show kindness to our enemies. If we are willing to obey Jesus in this regard, their lives will be changed…and ours, too.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRLCE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and whether or not you like cotton candy.
- ASK A FEW: What were some of the ways the Lipnicki boys tormented Stu? (Leaders – Not only did they actually beat him up, but they teased him and his family before doing so. They bullied him verbally and physically.)
- ASK A FEW: Based on the clip we watched, how did Stu feel about the Lipnicki family, especially the older brothers?
- ASK A FEW: Stu was infuriated that his dad gave the cotton candy to the kids that just beat him up. How would you have reacted if you were in Stu’s position?
- ASK A FEW: What was the reason Stu’s dad said he gave their cotton candy away to the family that just beat up his son? Why did he show compassion like that?
- ASK A FEW: What do you think the Lipnicki kids were thinking as Stu’s dad gave them the cotton candy?
- ASK A FEW: Do you find it difficult to be kind and compassionate to people who despise and/or bully you? If so, why? If not, why not?
- ASK A FEW: How do you think God wants us to react to those who tease us, bully us, and hurt us? How do you know?
Read the following passage:
- Romans 12:16-21 (NLT)
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. 19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord. 20 Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” 21 Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.
- ASK SOMEONE: How would you summarize this passage of Scripture in your own words?
- ASK A FEW: What are some of the specific commands Paul gives us to obey in these verses? (Leaders – He tells us to “live in harmony,” “don’t act important,” “enjoy the company of ordinary people,” “don’t think you know it all,” “never pay back evil for evil,” “do things so others can see you are honorable,” “live in peace,” “never avenge yourselves,” “give food and drink to enemies in need,” “don’t let evil get the best of you,” and “conquer evil by doing good.” That’s one heck of a checklist!)
- ASK A FEW: Which of these commands is the hardest for you? Why?
- ASK A FEW: Why does Paul, the writer of this passage, give us so many commands to care for and love those who want to do us harm? Why is this included in God’s Word?
- ASK A FEW: What will happen in your own heart if you show kindness to your enemies?
- ASK A FEW: In the clip we watched, the Lipnicki kids responded to Stu’s dad’s compassion by gladly receiving the cotton candy…even though they had just tormented Stu! How will your enemies react if you show kindness to them…even after they show you cruelty?
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Without naming names, what act of kindness or compassion will you do THIS WEEK for someone who has hurt you in the past?
In the clip we watched together, a poor little boy was teased about something he had no control over in his life, was beat up by the same bullies, and then watched as his father gave his tormentors the cotton candy bought for him! Stu’s dad was trying to do something kind for those who lacked kindness. He was trying to show compassion on those who needed it most: his son’s enemies.
Granted, Stu didn’t like it one bit! He couldn’t understand why his dad would do something so illogical. Why be kind to those who are not kind to us? Why be compassionate to those who’ve never shown compassion? Why love those who continually act like jerks to everyone around them?
Really, there’s only one reason: the Bible teaches us to do so.
In our breakout groups, we discussed Romans 12, a challenging passage that commands us – it’s not a suggestion! – to be kind, loving, and gracious to everyone…including those who despise and abuse us. The theme of “loving the unlovable” runs throughout the Bible even though it’s incredibly difficult to actually do. But there are lots of good reasons for being compassionate, kind, gracious, and merciful to those around us, including those who hate us. Here are just a few:
Jesus is glorified.
- Jesus often taught us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Jesus then provided the greatest example of loving His enemies as He prayed for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). If we are courageous enough to obey Jesus, He is glorified by how we live our lives. There are certainly other reasons to love our enemies, but there are none more important than this one.
Our enemies come face to face with love. Did you see the expressions on the kids’ faces when Stu’s dad handed them the cotton candy? They were perplexed. They were confused. They didn’t understand why someone they’d been mean to would be nice to them in response. They weren’t sure how to respond to love when they came face to face with it. The same will often be true of your enemies. If you treat them with kindness and love – even though they don’t deserve it – you will force them to confront love, particularly the love of Jesus that dwells within you.
Our hearts are softened. This one is definitely a process! But if we show our enemies kindness, over time, God will use those experiences to soften our hearts and make us more like His Son, Jesus. Likewise, if we constantly respond to hatred with hatred, our hearts will grow cold and hard. Even though we don’t show kindness to haters for our own benefit, because God is so good, He actually changes our lives for the better because we’re willing to obey Him.
Look, we want you to love everyone around you, yes, even those who are jerks. In a moment, I’m going to pray for you in that regard. I’m going to ask God to grant you the courage and the strength to show kindness to those who absolutely despise you, gossip about you, taunt you, and hurt you.
But, I’m not going to stop with prayer. If you’re facing a really tough situation, and want some help in walking through it, speak with one of our adult leaders before you leave. We don’t want you to think you’re in this alone. We’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now. Let us help you obey God’s Word.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.