The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from Jan. 10, 2021. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Rev. Adam Hamilton preached this week’s sermon.
Lord Jesus, we gather after a hard week, a week where we saw events we’d never imagined. Most of us have felt fear this week, and many of us have felt anger, maybe for different reasons, maybe with one another. We’ve been shocked—but you haven’t been. You know who we are, how we work—and you came to offer us healing for the brokenness in ourselves. Guide us in this study to better understand how to be people who love more than people who judge, how to be healers rather than dividers. Amen.
- Addressing “hypocrisy” as an obstacle to faith, Pastor Adam said, “I’d suggest that this is not a uniquely Christian problem. Gandhi was a Hindu. He was on a hunger strike to protest Hinduism’s and his government’s treatment of Muslims. On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu who took issue with his support for Muslims. Most Hindus don’t assassinate people–they are kind and loving people–but angry extremists and hypocrites are found in every religion. We know Muslims have had their own problems, even though “Islam” comes from the word Salam that means peace….
Some leading atheists have argued, ‘The problem is religion’….But we turn to the Soviet Union communists in the twentieth century, and those in China, in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and in North Vietnam–somewhere between 40 and 140 million people died in the last century in purges that left their people slaughtered or starving to death in these formally atheist countries.
Religion is not the problem. The problem is deeper. It is a human problem. And it is not just the problem of ‘those people over there.’ It is a problem in my own heart and in yours.” When have you seen lip-service paid to noble ideals, but used to cover up actions that were not noble at all? You needn’t go into details, but have you ever fallen short of your own highest aims?
- Read Matthew 7:1-5. The word “hypocrisy” came from a Greek word meaning “to act, to play a part.” Jesus' vivid imagery showed the absurdity. Here stands someone who claims to be righteous, with a log in their eye, trying to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye! What types of emotional “payoff” incline most of us to criticize others rather than face our own challenges? Has anyone ever graciously, compassionately offered you an insight about yourself while honestly admitting their own struggles and issues? If so, how did that experience differ from having someone judge and condemn you?
- Read Matthew 6:1-4. Jesus said giving can express generosity and gratitude, or it can be a something we do solely for the selfish purpose of making us look better to other people. Pastor John Ortberg wrote about the challenge many of us face with what he called “approval addiction.” He also suggested a way to correct the condition called “impression management:” “Every once in a while, do something good and try to make sure no one finds out about it.” * How important is it to you that others know about your giving, of money, time or service? What makes that important to you? Have you ever done something generous and worked to ensure that only you and God (not even the recipient) knew who did the giving? (If so, don’t tell the group all about it! But it’s okay to say, “Yes, I have.”) Consider agreeing as a group to try that, and then to share, not what you did, but how it affected you inwardly.
- Read 1 Peter 1:18 – 2:3. Peter referred in 1:23 (as well as earlier in 1 Peter 1:3) to Christians having been born again. Too often today many people think “born again” people have unloving, judgmental or exclusive attitudes. In contrast, what qualities did Peter say characterize a person who has been born again by God’s power? Peter urged his readers to “get rid of all ill will and all deceit and pretense.” How can you as a group join God in helping one another to grow in those areas during 2021?
- Read Philippians 1:3-11. We don’t always link “love,” “knowledge” and “insight.” Scholar N. T. Wright observed that Paul did: “We think of [love] as having to do with emotion and affection, not with knowledge and wisdom. For Paul they are all bound together: what we call the ‘heart’ and what we call the ‘head’ were not separated.” ** When has learning more about Jesus' God-empowered mission to save the world (i.e., you!) caused your love for Jesus to grow “even more and more rich”? How have you seen Spirit-produced love grow other spiritual fruit in your life and the lives of others?
- After discussing the tragic, frightening events of the past week, Pastor Adam said, “People are drawn to people who love, who show selfless kindness. And in showing this kind of kindness, we find joy. If we live this way as a church, people will be drawn to our Christ precisely because they are drawn to the kindness of Christians….The answer to the polarization that divides us is love. The power strong enough to defeat hate is love. The only balm that can heal our brokenness is love. And when we love, and practice selfless kindness, people are drawn to our Christ.” Do you agree? How can you, individually and as a group, do more of that in this new year?
Lord Jesus, we’re not interested in pretending to be spiritually complete. We want lives genuinely filled with the spiritual fruit you offer to grow in us. Shape us, and help us to shape one another, in ways that will radiate your love and draw others to you. Amen.
* John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002, p. 158ff, 168.
** Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 85). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.