Study Guide Bible Studies

Chapter 1

Read 2 Corinthians 5: 11-21

Paul was writing to a divided church, to people who were angry with him and who questioned his integrity.

In verse 12 he does not seek to defend himself – but to commend Christ.

Discuss

  • From this passage what are the marks that define Christ’s work of reconciliation?
  • How do they compare with the ‘Reconciliation is …’ notes you collected earlier?

In verse 17 we are given the ministry of reconciliation.

Discuss

  • If the Corinthian community had taken these words seriously what would change in the way they treated Paul and treated one another?
  • What does it mean for us to live as ambassadors of Christ?

Chapter 2

Read Luke 10: 25-37

This is such a familiar story but there is always more to be discovered as we consider it from many angles. The aim of this bible study is to explore different understanding held by Jesus and the teacher of the Law. For the teacher of the Law there is no difference between clarity and truth.

Discuss

  • What kind of answer do you think the teacher of the law expected from Jesus to his two questions?
  • Did he actually get an answer to either question?

Consider the Parable itself

Given the purity laws surrounding the priests and Levites of the Temple in Jerusalem the teacher of the Law would have understood them to be correct in avoiding contact with blood and potentially with a dead body. The same laws would not have precluded the Samaritan from helping.

Discuss

  • How do you think the teacher of the Law would react to being told to behave like the Samaritan in the story?
  • Was Jesus asking the teacher of the Law to become a Samaritan?
  • What change in his way of thinking was Jesus demanding of the teacher of the law?
  • How does this parable challenge the way we think?

Chapter 3

Read John 4: 1-30

Like last week we are looking at a familiar story. This time we are going to consider the crossing of cultures that is going on in the story. Verse 4 emphasises the point that is essential to understanding the conversation.

Discuss

Jesus is alone, tired and thirsty in a strange place.

  • When Jesus asks the woman for water who has the power?
  • How does this change?

The woman is often portrayed as sinful, leaving one husband after another.

  • If you know that women were not able to divorce their husbands is she sinner or sinned against?
  • How would such an interpretation change the way you view Jesus’ answer?

When the disciples return they are astonished to Jesus and the Samaritan woman talking to one another but Photine is the one who recognises Jesus as he Messiah. Read John 4:39-42.

  • What effect did the conversation have on the people of Photine’s village?

Read John 4: 43-44

Discuss

  • Would Jesus have been recognised for who he is if he had not crossed cultures?

Chapter 4

Read John 13: 1-17

Another familiar story again and we are looking to understand the implications of challenging power.

Discuss

Look at verse 3. Just take a moment to consider the words ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power’

  • If you didn’t know what came next what kind of things would you expect an all-powerful Jesus to do?

Read verses 6-9:

Peter was dismayed by the idea of Jesus washing his feet.

  • Why do you think Peter was so upset?

Every year on Maundy Thursday the Austro Hungarian Emperor and Empress would wash the feet of 12 men and 12 women who had been specially washed and clothed for the event. They used ornate solid gold jugs and bowls made by the leading silver smiths of the generation. The act of service had become an act of identifying themselves as the incarnation of Christ and rightful heirs of his power.1

  • How did the imperial re-enactment of the foot washing transform the message Jesus intended?

Read verses 12-14

  • How does the command in verse 14 contrast with the act of the Emperor?

The re-enactment of the foot washing in John 13 is very complex and difficult. The danger is that those doing the foot washing appear to take on the role of Jesus and so assume power over those they are serving. In cultures where foot washing is not a common action it may be humiliating to be encouraged to remove shoes and socks and be subjected to such a strange event. The result can be to reinforce the power dynamics between those who wash and those who are washed.

Discuss

  • How would you design an event that enabled all to participate in following the command of verse 14?
  • Who would find this challenging in your community?

Chapter 5

Read Ephesians 2:11-22

Verse 11 is addressed to gentile Christians living in Ephesus contemplating separation from Jewish Christians. Paul reminds them that Christ united them with people of Israel.

Read verse 14-18.

That Christ reconciled us to God on the Cross is familiar to us.

Discuss

  • What is the emphasis in this passage?
  • What did Christ do to break down the walls that divided people?
  • Are there times when Christian churches put up walls rather than take them down?

Paul uses a different building metaphor in verses 19-22.

  • What would it mean to build a community that includes all, rather than walls that divide people?

Chapter 6

Read Genesis 16

Abraham is known as the man of faith but in Genesis 16 he and Sarah lose their trust in God and seek a short cut to gaining an heir. The story is shocking to us, but it is not unusual in the history of the world.

The rivalry between the two women is not unusual either. Kenyan theologian Emily Onyango understands this because she is part of a culture where polygamy is normal. She has observed it for herself.

Read verses 1-6

  • Who holds power in this story?
  • Where do your sympathies lie?

Read verses 7-10

(The Angel of the Lord is a term widely recognised to represent a direct intervention by God).

  • If you were Hagar would you be inclined to return?
  • How does God give her the courage to turn back?

The story continues through Genesis 19-27 and 21:8-21. At first Ishmael is part of the community, named loved and circumcised with his father. However, when Sarah’s tears turn to laughter at the birth of her own child Isaac her jealously rises again and Hagar is banished once more and Ishmael faces death in the desert. God comes to their aid and the future is hopeful.

Discuss

  • Do you wish this story had a happy ending where all lived in peace?
  • What does it tell you about the difficulty of reconciliation?

Chapter 7

Philippians 2: 5-13

For this text use the method of lectio divina set out in the chapter. This form of lectio was used throughout the Continuing Indaba Conversations as it allowed time for speaking and listening to one another and to God.

Opening Prayer:

O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

  1. One individual reads passages slowly.
  2. Each person identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention. (1 minute)
  3. Each shares the word or phrase around the group. (3 –5 minutes, no discussion)
  4. Another person reads the passage slowly (from a different translation, if possible).
  5. Each person identifies where this passage touches their life today. (1 minute)
  6. Each shares. (3 –5 minutes, no discussion)
  7. Passage is read a third time (another reader and translation, if possible. Or even another language).
  8. Each person names or writes: ‘From what I’ve heard and shared, what do I believe God wants me to do or be? Is God inviting me to change in any way?’ (5 minutes)
  9. Each shares their answer. (5 –10 minutes, no discussion)
  10. Each prays for the person on their right, naming what was shared in other steps. (5 minutes)

Close with the Lord’s Prayer and silence.

Discussion

This may be the first time you have experienced a form of lectio divina.

  • What did you learn from using the process?
  • Did it include every voice?
  • What are the weaknesses and advantages?

Chapter 1

Read Acts 9: 1-19

This is the story of how Paul changed from enforcer of orthodoxy to apostle of reconciliation.

Following the death of Stephen (Acts 7 and 8:1) Saul was full of rage against those who were following the Way of Jesus. He regarded them as traitors and heretics.

  • Can you identify groups and individuals who have justified murdering people for holding the wrong opinion?

Read verses 3-5: Saul is persecuting Jesus himself.

  • How does seeing Jesus in the powerless and persecuted change your view of the world?

Read Verses 10-16: Saul went on to Damascus where Ananias was called by God to minister to him.

  • What are the emotions that shaped Ananias’ response to the call?
  • Remember your great heroes of reconciliation from session 1. What feelings do you think they experienced? If you were married to such a person, would you encourage them to face the difficulties or stay at home and live a quiet life?

Read verse 16 again.

  • What is Paul offered?

Read 2 Corinthians 11: 16-33

  • What was the cost of Living Reconciliation for Paul – what do you think it might cost you?