This week's Small Group Guide is composed of questions from this week's GPS Guide. The questions relate to the Scripture for that particular day. You can download the full week's GPS as a printable document for the context of each question below (in the printable version, the recommended small group questions are marked with a special bullet point.)
Sociologists note that in war, soldiers use dehumanizing nicknames for people on the other side. It seems to become easier to kill people if we stop thinking of them as people, as human. In what ways have you seen similar patterns in religious or political “combat,” when the “bullets” are words? Have you ever made friends with a person, then found out you hold some different views, and realized that the derisive labels you’ve used for “those people” may not be true?
When you have negative thoughts about someone who disagrees with you, do you ever look inside and ask, “What does this person threaten, annoy or frighten in me?” Pastor Hamilton wrote, “We can make known our disagreements with others while doing so in love and with respect for the other.” When have you seen disagreement handled in love and respect? When have you been able to do that yourself? Can James’ wisdom about the inner sources of conflict help you relate in more Christ-like ways when disagreement arises?
Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “People who are enslaved to anger and malice may think they are ‘free’ to ‘be themselves’, but they are in bondage.”* When have you said words that hurt, and then thought, “Why did I say that?” What helps you understand your feelings better so you don’t blurt out damaging words? Before you forward that e-mail, or post that tart response on social media, are you willing to ask, “Does this give grace? Does it build up? Can I picture Jesus sending this?”
Author Phillip Yancey said, “The issue is not whether I agree with someone but rather how I treat someone with whom I profoundly disagree. We Christians are called to use the ‘weapons of grace,’ which means treating even our opponents with love and respect.”** Paul challenged the Athenians ideas, but showed respect by commending their devotion to an “unknown God.” How did Paul’s approach echo the way Jesus lived out God’s heart (cf. John 3:16-17)? How can you share your faith with non-religious and nominally religious people without condemning them?
* N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 56).
** Phillip Yancey, Vanishing Grace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, p. 26.
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