- Strained relationships. Have you ever found yourself struggling with a strained relationship? Not getting along, with someone or several people you used to like but now it seems they just don’t seem to want to be your friend anymore? After you were converted to a life of friendship with God, did you sometimes find that God’s children weren’t such good friends after all? Does God want all of those barriers destroyed? Or is He content with continuing to love us even though we don’t have peace with everyone around us? Even at church?
- Restored Friendship. Do you think John Mark should have left Paul and Barnabas behind as he did? After that happened, what do you think changed Paul’s mind about John Mark’s worthiness to travel with them? Wasn’t that a serious offense by John Mark–to walk away and leave Paul behind? Didn’t Paul have every reason to be disgusted by the younger man’s action? What happened? Share some evidence you picked up showing the vanishing of the barrier. Have you ever been able to change your attitude toward a fellow believer and move ahead in faith with that person? Is there something about a change in attitude by Paul that you’d like to see more of in your church?
- From slave to son. A dramatic story about Onesimus–wouldn’t you agree? By “chance,” Paul struck up a conversation with Onesimus, a former fellow prisoner of his in Rome. Paul followed up with a letter to Philemon. Obviously, Paul and Onesimus weren’t related, so why did Paul refer to Onesimus as his “son”? What good news did he share in this letter to Philemon? Put yourself in Paul’s situation. Would you or would you not be so eager to make Onesimus your friend again? What did this friendship involve from Paul?
- Spiritual gifts for unity. Now we go from Philemon to Corinth to help those people deal with deep spiritual problems. What was the root problem in the Corinth church? Isn’t competition a healthy way to build strength? Your lesson guide states that “all comparisons with others are unwise”? But don’t you truly believe that competition is healthy? How do you feel after demonstrating that you have given the best answer, performed the best, or deserved a reward? How do you think Jesus feels about your performance?
- Forgiveness. What is forgiveness? When you forgive someone for something he or she had done to you, does the act of forgiveness wipe out the wrong that this person has done? Can you forgive someone who isn’t sorry to any degree? Can you measure or comprehend the forgiveness that God had shared with you? Can we forgive absolutely anything somebody has done that was wrong? Should we or shouldn’t we? Why?
- Restoration and unity. Jesus sets down in His Word three steps that can help us take away any conflicts among us Christians. What are they? Why not just report to the pastor or the chairman of the presiding committee that so-and-so has done something that hurt you or that you think is a bad influence in your church? Study the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 and invent a story or illustration that shows the effectiveness of this approach. What is the basic principle that Jesus wants us to use to solve problems in the fellowship of believers without taking sides? What do you think should be the role of the church board in dealing with problems like this that can’t be solved by you alone?