We live in a world of bias and prejudice. Sometimes it seems inescapable, even unstoppable. Recently, this issue has moved to the forefront of our social and political world. In this sea of strong opinions, we have to ask how followers of Jesus should respond to what is happening in our society? It might surprise you that the answer to this question isn't new. If we go back to the words of Jesus, we are to love everyone. If we are honest, that isn't always easy. We have to learn to work through harboring resentment, bitterness, and jealousy toward other people; and instead, choose to love. As we study 1 John 4 today, we will be reminded to fight prejudice and self-centeredness with love.
When you were young, which category did you get placed into or identify with (jocks, nerds, geeks, in-crowd, outsider, indie/hippie/hipster, emo, etc.)?
1. How did it feel to be categorized and stereotyped as a kid? How did you treat people who weren't a part of your circle? How did they treat you?
2. Why do you think it is so easy to dismiss or dehumanize someone because we disagree with them or are different from them in some way?
3. Why is it easier to hate someone when they are classified into a particular group or category?
4. Read 1 John 3:11-15 and take notice of how death and hatred are linked, and love and life are linked. According to this Scripture, is it possible to hate people and love God? Why or why not?
1 John 3:11-15
This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
5. This weekend we made the statement that "Every person matters to God and therefore they should matter to me." What does this mean practically for each of us?
6. Read 1 John 3:16-20. What does loving others look like according to these verses?
1 John 3:16-20
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
7. In light of our conversation today, what might be the best way for us as followers of Jesus to respond to what is going on in our society? How can we make an extra effort to love those people who are different from us (socially, economically, politically, racially, sexually, etc.)?
Take some time to share an area in your life where you feel hatred or disgust for another person creeping in. Think about what category of people you struggle to love. Now, take time to think of one action step you can take to exercise love instead of hate, disgust, and fear. Whatever way you decide to fight against prejudice with love, share it with your group and make plans to do that thing this week. The Kingdom of God begins with us.
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The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.