For six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we are talking about the posture of being transformed through community.
The Gospel of Jesus is a message of reconciliation, a message about bringing together the broken human family. The gospel means we belong to one race, the human-beloved-by-God race. Yet, reconciliation does not mean washing away our different histories, perspectives, and experiences. What does it mean to be part of a diverse gospel community? How do we deal with our differences, and how do we broach difficult subjects? Most importantly, how do we allow our differences to be part of God’s transformation of our lives?
What is the one topic that you hate hearing people argue about? Why do you hate that topic in particular?
- In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), Sarah Steward Holland and Beth Silvers explain, “Somewhere along the way….we decided that [conflict] is impolite at best and dangerous at worst. Unfortunately our attempts to avoid these uncomfortable moments have backfired. In our efforts to protect relationships from tension, we have instead escalated that tension…we changed “you shouldn’t talk about politics” to “you should talk only to people who reinforce your worldview’.” Is conflict always a bad thing? What would characterize good/healthy conflict?
Read GALATIANS 2:11-19
- Can someone who listened to the sermon provide some background to this passage? What ethnic/racial tensions are at play?
- What is theologically at stake in the passage? Why does Paul feel it is necessary to confront Cephas (Peter)?
- How would you describe Paul’s confrontation with Peter? Was it loving, overly harsh, something else?
- How did Paul utilize the Gospel in his confrontation?
- What do you think the immediate effects of this confrontation were? What were the long-term effects?
- Have you ever had someone confront you in a way similar to how Paul confronted Peter? Have you ever confronted someone/ What was the experience like? What did you learn?
- In The Different Drum, M. Scott Peck talks about the stages of group development. He explains that all groups go through four stages: Pseudo-Community > Chaos > Emptiness > Real Community. The transition from Chaos to Emptiness is one of the most challenging stages. He says, “In order to transcend the stage of “Chaos”, members are forced to shed that which prevents real communication. Biases and prejudice, need for power and control, self-superiority, and other similar motives which are only mechanisms of self-validation and/or ego-protection, must yield to empathy, openness to vulnerability, attention, and trust. Hence this stage does not mean people should be “empty” of thoughts, desires, ideas or opinions. Rather, it refers to emptiness of all mental and emotional distortions which reduce one’s ability to really share, listen to, and build on those thoughts, ideas, etc.” How do you see this dynamic at work in the passage today?
- Have you ever been part of a group that had to go through the transition from chaos to emptiness? What was it like? What did you learn?
- What are some areas that you feel Christian communities are afraid to talk about? What gets in the way of them having productive conflicts?
- How might the Spirit be leading you to lovingly engage areas that are contentious? How might you need to empty yourself?
Diving Deeper: ChurCH DISCIPLINE
Read ACTS 5:1-11
- What is your immediate reaction to this story?
- What did Ananias and Sapphira do that was so wrong that God had to smite them? Is giving money to the Church really that bad?
- Why do you think Ananias and Sapphira acted in the deceptive way that they did?
- How might the actions of Ananias and Sapphira undercut the witness of the early Church?
- Are there actions people take that should engender a severe disciplinary response from the Church? What are some examples, and why are such responses necessary?
- What would a healthy structure of church discipline look like?
- How should Christians engage each other today when they disagree about what actions need a disciplinary response or the nature of that response?