Religion is powerful—so powerful it can shape our consciences. Unfortunately, our consciences have been shaped by a version of Christianity that reflects a blend of the rules-focused temple model and the Jesus movement, which is demonstrated by love. As a result, we’re tempted to prioritize law- keeping over loving others. How do we reconcile God’s law with Jesus’ call to love our neighbours? So, what is required if we want to follow Jesus’ example and radically love the people around us?
Food for thought
- When you hear the word “religion,” what comes to mind? Why?
- What are some of the cultural consequence of people viewing Christians as judgmental and obsessed with rules instead of as a radically loving community?
- Read Galatians 5:6, 14. What is challenging about the idea that all of the law is fulfilled in the command to “love your neighbour as yourself”? What is freeing about that idea?
- When has a shift in your conscience changed your religious reality? How did that shift affect your relationship with God?
- Who is one person you need to start being for without demanding anything in return? What stands in the way of you loving that person?
- What is one thing you can do this week to better love the person you identified in the previous question? What can your small group do to support you? What are some of the costs of Christians being more concerned with following rules than in the ways they mistreat others? How might it influence the way unchurched people view God?
- Read Matthew 25:31–40. In what ways does this passage challenge your assumptions about God? What are its implications in your daily life?
- What is one group of people that is different from you and that you find it difficult to love? Consider the words of Matthew 25:31–40 in light of that group. What are some obstacles you would have to overcome to love that group of people?
- Think about a difficult relationship in your life. Within the context of that relationship, what does love require of you? Be specific. What can this group do to support you and hold you accountable as you move to love that person?
- Statistics tell us that 86% of non believers do not have a relationship with a believer. In the Toowoomba Region there are 155000 people who don’t go to church that equates 133300 people. Who of those 133300 people can you become friends with?
How can you apply these thoughts?
Do your beliefs ever get in the way of your love? Do your views hinder you from loving someone? Most of us wrestle with that tension because we haven’t embraced the truth of gospel: if Jesus died for us, he is for us. God’s unmerited love for us and for those around us must inform our consciences and shape our Love offers us no place to hide. It offers no loopholes, short cuts, or workarounds. But aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t look for a loophole to loving you? What does love require of you at home, at work, on the footy field, in traffic, in line at the shops? We almost always know the answer to that question. The hard part is actually doing what love requires.
Changing your mind
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6b
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40