Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Jeremiah 3:14-18; Judges 17:6; 1 Kings 12:1-16; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Acts 20:25-31
Some people are just contrary about everything. Angela Watercutter, Editor at WIRED, writes: “I got a Facebook message from someone about my article on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The message ended with a string of racist comments, and the suggestion that I kill myself. I've thought about this message a lot because of the language used. Hearing that I don't ‘get’ Star Wars is fairly common, but this response seemed odd, like the person was looking to have a political debate, not an artistic one. Trolls are gonna troll, but this one seemed to be on a mission.
“Trolls have existed as long as the internet and everyone has their own rules about whether or not to respond to, or ‘feed,’ them. It's easy to ignore the ones just trying to pick fights, but ignoring actual hate speech allows it to fester. It gets harder to have an honest discussion about cinematic quality when some of the speakers are just there to throw kerosene on a flame war. When it's impossible to know which sentiments are real and what motivates the people sharing them, discourse crumbles. Every discussion becomes an awkward family dinner that turns into a relationship-ending fight, if we let it.
“I've learned to think of comments-section blowhards as not entirely real. The comments come from people living out a persona online, just saying antagonizing things. Yet, I never deleted the message. I don't think it's worth agonizing over personally; I believe it came from someone who doesn't know me. But I do think it was an indicator: the days of simply debating about Ewoks and complaining about the prequels were over, already a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”1
Our lesson this week explores the underlying causes of disunity. Sometimes disunity comes because the issues are so polarizing that there is no middle ground for agreement. Sometimes it comes because the people on the opposing sides don’t have the communication skills required to discuss the issues maturely. Often discord happens because someone involved in the dispute is just plain ornery and contrary. It always occurs when one or more parties deviate from following God’s will.
In Judges we see that many just did whatever they felt was right in their own eyes—and blamed God for the fact that Israel had no earthly king like the surrounding nations. Stubbornness doomed Israel after the death of Solomon as his foolish son Rehoboam broke up the nation. Paul warned that the fledgling Christian church was susceptible to factions and splits. As we consider the state of the church in the 21st century, we need to define for ourselves and as a church what true unity is—what God’s will is for us. Then we must each determine whether we will be agents of this unity, or sewers of discord.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Distribute sheets of paper and colored pencils to everyone in the group. Have each person draw an example of unity that can be seen in the family unit, in nature, in the workplace, or in the community. When finished, have a “Show-and-Tell” time where each person has one minute to explain his or her sketch.
Sharing: Read Acts 20:25-31. Which of the means used to divide the early church is most pervasive in the church today?
1. People who behave like wolves, trying to divide and conquer
2. Groups presenting perverse teachings as the true gospel
3. People who rise up (boasting with pride)
4. Factions trying to draw people out of God’s church and into their own organizations
5. The tendency to forget the counsels and warnings in Scripture and follow exciting new ideas
Applying: Do you know someone who has left your church because of disunity over some issue? What happened? Think of how you might reach out to this person. Should you address the issue head-on or just show Christian love and let the matter slide?
Valuing: Have you personally ever been the cause of disunity in your church? What can you do to heal the rift you’ve caused? Do you truly want to heal it?