October 23- 29
An Open Community
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Mark 7:24-30; Luke 10:30-33; John 4:7-15; Acts 17:26; Rom. 10:5-11; James 2:1-9.
MEMORY TEXT: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:8, 9, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: What should our attitude, as Christians, be toward nonbelievers and people who belong to other religious groups and classes? How should we look upon those people whom we find most disagreeable and unpleasant?
WITH PREJUDICE TOWARD NONE. Last week we studied about the importance of Christian love in the church and home and its influence over the unity of both. This week we will study Christian love in relationship to all people, no matter who they might be.
"Christ recognized no distinction of nationality or rank or creed. ... Christ came to break down every wall of partition. He came to show that His gift of mercy and love is as unconfined as the air, the light, or the showers of rain that refresh the earth."Selected Messages, book 2, p. 485.
The only way for us to have a loving heart, free from prejudice and discriminative attitudes, is through the indwelling Holy Spirit. He empowers us to emulate Christ's example in relating to and reaching out to others all around us.
What kind of spirit did Jesus manifest while He was on earth? Mark 10:45; John 13:15-17.
"It is not the length of time we labor but our willingness and fidelity in the work that makes it acceptable to God. In all our service a full surrender of self is demanded. The smallest duty done in sincerity and self-forgetfulness is more pleasing to God than the greatest work when marred with self-seeking."Christ's Object Lessons, p. 402.
The story is told about a church that was destroyed during the heat of a mighty battle. Workers clearing the rubble found a statue of Christ with the hands missing. When a famous sculptor offered to restore the hands, the church officers declined, saying that the statue of a handless Christ had become to them a symbol of the Lord's use of the hands of His followers to serve Him through loving deeds for others.
Yes, the Lord uses our hands to serve others; our lips to preach to others; our feet to reach others; and our warm hearts to revive the sinner's cold heart.
Serving means to do something good for others. But it also secures our joy in the Lord. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), the well-known physician and philanthropist who served in Gabon, Africa, once told a group of students: "I do not know which will be the destiny of each one of you; but one thing I knowthe only ones among you who will be really happy will be those who have sought and found the way to serve."
Explain the golden rule in your own words. Matt. 7:12.
There is no greater principle regarding human relations than these simple yet profound words of Christ. But how easy they are to understand without putting them into practice.
"The standard of the golden rule is the true standard of Christianity; anything short of it is a deception."Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 136, 137.
|What have you done lately for someone that required a sacrifice of time, money, or some other commodity you have little of? If it has been a while, bow can you be Christ's hands, feet, lips, and heart today?|
What do the following verses say about God's attitude toward all peoples? Acts 10:1-35; Rom. 2:5-11. What is our attitude toward the different peoples of the world in view of His?
When it comes to relations with people, the word partiality means "respect of persons;" that is, "to make a difference in the treatment given from one person to another," or to respect one and disrespect another. That was the valuable lesson God taught Peter through the vision He gave him. There is no distinction between people and their need for salvation. Christ died for all people, and He paid for each one with the same precious price, His blood. He has no preference for one above another. He loves all, no matter how low they may have fallen. Because of His impartial grace, we may all be encircled by His welcoming and reconciling arms.
"Christ came to this earth with a message of mercy and forgiveness. He laid the foundation for a religion by which Jew and Gentile, black and white, free and bond, are linked together in one common brotherhood, recognized as equal in the sight of God. The Saviour has a boundless love for every human being."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 225.
How does James illustrate the sin of partiality? James 2:1-9.
The early church was at first composed largely of humble, common people. Therefore, when rich people did attend or join, it must have seemed logical to the members to treat them with great favor. But the early church also was the only institution at that time that did not recognize pre-existing social distinctions. Here slaves and masters could be seen sitting together. Or perhaps the slave was even leading out. But as it is in the arms of God, so He intends for it to be among His family members.
Are you conscious that partiality is a sin? What damage can it do? Where does it exist in the church today? In your local congregation? In your own life?
|If you believe partiality exists in any one these areas, where should you start to eradicate it, and why? Pray that our impartial God will open your heart and arms to all of His children as they cross your path.|
Today we will study three cases in which Jesus manifested a special consideration to people who were not Hebrews. First, read each case from the Bible. Then read the lesson comments regarding the case. Finally, answer the following questions for each case: What was the nature of the service rendered? What was the outcome? What do the answers to these two questions teach me in general about serving people who do not share my beliefs and lifestyle?
First case: John 4:7-15. "The Jews and the Samaritans were bitter enemies, and as far as possible avoided all dealing with each other."The Desire of Ages, p. 183. Nevertheless, Jesus talked to the woman by the well. Their memorable conversation brought salvation not only to her but others in the nearby city.
"The Saviour is still carrying forward the same work as when He proffered the water of life to the woman of Samaria. Those who call themselves His followers may despise and shun the outcast ones; but no circumstance of birth or nationality, no condition of life, can turn away His love from the children of men."The Desire of Ages, p. 194.
Second case: Luke 10:25-33. The Samaritan "did not question whether the stranger was a Jew or a Gentile. If a Jew, the Samaritan well knew that, were their condition reversed, the man would spit in his face, and pass him by with contempt. But he did not hesitate on account of this."The Desire of Ages, p. 503.
In telling this story, Jesus showed consideration for a traditional enemy of the Jews. He exalted the behavior of the one who had compassion in his heart.
Third case: Mark 7:24-30. Jesus performed this miracle for one reason. Yes, He had compassion for the girl with an unclean spirit. But He also had in mind another purpose.
"He wished to relieve the afflicted woman, and at the same time to leave an example in His work of mercy toward one of a despised people for the benefit of His disciples when He should no longer be with them. He wished to lead them from their Jewish exclusiveness to be interested in working for others besides their own people."The Desire of Ages, p. 402.
Examine your own life honestly. Do you find yourself helping only those who are in your church or who think and act like yourself? If so, what can you begin doing to remedy this situation?
|How does reaching others not of our persuasion help to fulfill Christ's command as given to us in Matthew 28:19, 20.|
God had chosen Israel to be His ambassadors to a lost world. Through them, people everywhere were to hear about God's plan of redemption. Their dependence on and worship of God would be the lesson book from which other nations could learn about the Creator and Redeemer.
But Israel lost its dependence on God and its sense of mission. They viewed themselves with a proud exclusivism. God had told them, "Arise, shine; for your light has come! and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you" (Isa. 60:1, NKJV). But they "loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:19). So they ceased to be God's chosen people, because they rejected "the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world" (John 1:9).
What words of condemnation did Jesus pronounce upon Jerusalem? Luke 13:34, 35; Matt. 23:33-43.
"Jesus wept in anguish over the doomed city, but He could not deliver her. He had exhausted every resource. In rejecting the warnings of God's Spirit, Israel had rejected the only means of help. There was no other power by which they could be delivered."The Desire of Ages, p. 587.
And so God called the church to do the work that Israel refused. With a new vision, Jesus' followers were to take the gospel to all the world. It is still our vision today.
"Christ commissioned His disciples to proclaim a faith and worship that would have in it nothing of caste or country, a faith that would be adapted to all peoples, all nations, all classes of men."The Desire of Ages, p. 819.
"For this work the church was established, and all who take upon themselves its sacred vows are thereby pledged to be co-workers with Christ."The Desire of Ages, p. 819 (sic), p. 822.
Truly ours is a global mission. Gary Krause, Global Mission communications director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, states, "Global Mission ... confronts us with the unreached millions. It pulls our focus onto the 'dangerous' unknown outside our areas of comfort. For most of us it's the danger of trying something new, sacrificing precious time, or giving more than we've budgeted."Adventist Review, August 1997, p. 15.
|What special aspects of the gospel are we as Seventh-day Adventists called to share with the world? Think of two or three things you can start doing in your part of the world.|
Analyze Paul's statement concerning the equality of individual members within the human family. Acts 17:26.
During Paul's time, there was a strong division of classes. Because rich people believed they were a superior class, there was a deep separation between one class and the other. But after so many centuries, the same problem still prevails. Fortunately, "no distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption."Selected Messages, book 2, p. 486.
"Without distinction of age, or rank, or nationality, or religious privilege, all are invited to come unto Him and live. 'Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference' (Rom. 10:11-13)."The Desire of Ages, p. 403.
How does Romans 10:12 explain why the Christian faith does not maintain a class distinction? Consider the significance of the word whoever in the context of Romans 10:13, and then compare it with John 3:16.
All this week, we have been studying the need to have open minds in order to overcome our prejudices so that we might treat our neighbors with Christian love. As Christians, we always should remember that God loves each of us the same. Jesus died for all, even for the supposedly insignificant and miserable. What a boundless love!
Moreover, we are called to follow Christ's example. What does the Decalogue say about loving our neighbor? (Matt. 22:39; Rom. 13:8-10). What is the teaching of the golden rule? (Matt. 7:12). Is it possible for a Christian to get enough spiritual strength to practice this noble behavior? Human selfishness is so big, the secular influence is so subtle, and our tendency to excuse our personal indifference is so common that only through the Holy Spirit can we follow Christ' s example.
|Contemplate this promise in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (NKJV). How does believing in this promise encourage and empower us to love as Christ loves? Share with the class how God helps you "through Christ" to do the seemingly undoable?|
FURTHER STUDY: What does Matthew 25:31-46 teach us about loving others, regardless of their situation in life?
Read The Desire of Ages, chapters 19, 43, 54. Also read Appendix 3 of Selected Messages, book 2. This material offers practical advice on preaching the gospel to the whole world, without distinguishing between countries, races, classes, cultures, or tongues.
"No question of policy influenced His [Jesus'] movements. He made no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the waters of life. ...
"He sought to inspire with hope the roughest and most unpromising, setting before them the assurance that they might become blameless and harmless, attaining such a character as would make them manifest as the children of God. ...
"[People] longed to become worthy of His confidence. ... New impulses were awakened, and to these outcasts of society there opened the possibility of a new life."The Ministry of Healing, pp. 25, 26.
SUMMARY: As a church and as individual members, we should keep in mind (1) our global mission to reach all nations and (2) Christ's example of treating everybody with the same understanding and consideration.
Beverly Herbrandson Koester
Chinsisi of Malawi is the eldest in a family of nine brothers. It was Chinsisi's influence that inspired his next-younger brother, Yami, to become a Christian. But during his later teen years Chinsisi dropped out of school before he graduated. His church attendance became sporadic, and he began smoking and drinking.
When his parents died in 1993, Chinsisi turned even more to drinking to help him forget the troubles at home and the needs of his younger brothers.
That left Yami, 18 and just out of high school, to take on the role of parent to his brothers. Yami found a job and began supporting his brothers. Chinsisi, ashamed of the problems he was causing the family, left town.
For the next three years Yami struggled to support and nurture his brothers. He taught them to love Jesus, and he trusted in the Lord to do for them what Yami could not do. During this time Yami never forgot his older brother.
When the young adults in his church in Blantyre called for a day of fasting and prayer on behalf of one of their members who was facing Sabbath problems at work, Yami joined in. The young people sang and prayed. But as the Holy Spirit moved upon their hearts, they began sharing and praying for one anothers burdens as well. As members of the group expressed personal needs, others in the group prayed for them by name.
During this time of sharing, Yami told the group of his burden for his brother Chinsisi, who had been the spiritual influence that had brought him to Christ. He related how Chinsisi had drifted from the Lord and from his family. He asked his friends to pray that Chinsisi would come home. Yami was comforted as his friends took his burden to God.
A few months later, during Christmas, Chinsisi returned to Blantyre and was reunited with his joyful brothers. During the long conversations that followed, Yami learned that within two weeks of the day of fasting and prayer, Chinsisi had given up smoking and drinking. He quit his job and began attending church.
Chinsisi had come home.
Beverly Herbrandson Koester and her husband recently returned from Malawi, where they had served as missionaries for eight years. She works at the General Conference.
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