Created for Community. In many ways this quarter’s Sabbath School lessons can be seen as focusing on Jesus’ second great command, probably the most difficult of Jesus’ commands to implement, both at the individual level and at the level of community: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The theme, “Religion in Relationships,” is all about how we relate to our neighbors within the context of a committed relationship to God.
Discussion Questions: To open our discussions of relationships, we focus on three crucial biblical contexts: The creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2, the decalogue in Exodus 20, and the well-known love chapter in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13.
- Created for Community from the Beginning. In Genesis 1-4, the importance of community surfaces frequently: God commanded our first parents to be fruitful and multiply (1:28) and God tantalized Adam with a powerful sense of loneliness so that he would truly appreciate Eve after her creation (2:18-25). In what way has the entrance of sin affected the sense of community which came so naturally before the fall? Is there any evidence in Scripture that might point to a contrast between the sense of community before sin and the sense of community after sin?
- Religion Has Social Dimensions. In Jesus’ one-verse summary of the Old Testament in Matthew 7:12, no vertical dimension is mentioned (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). It is implied, but not stated. Jesus simply commands us to treat others the way we would want to be treated. How could Jesus summarize the whole Old Testament without any explicit reference to God?
- Human Beings in the Decalogue. Traditionally the last six commands in the decalogue have been seen as being focused on human needs and challenges, while the first four are seen as focusing on our relationship to God. But the first four commands are also shadowed by some very important human issues. Is it possible in commands one to four to pinpoint concerns directly related to human relationships? On balance, how does the decalogue integrate commitment to God with commitment to our fellow humans?
- Agape Love. The great love chapter, I Corinthians 13, has come down to us more as testimony than as command. How does one go about acquiring the gifts listed in the chapter?
- Hating Father and Mother. In Luke 14:26, Scripture quotes Jesus as saying, in effect, that we must be willing to hate father and mother, wife and children, siblings and even our own life. Can our understanding of how language works temper the harsh lines of the word “hate”? If we turn gentle, will it help some and hinder others?
- Breaking Down the Dividing Wall: Loving Our Ethnic Neighbor. Ephesians 2:11-17 pointedly claims that in Jesus, the barriers between peoples are broken down. How can a community of believers overcome the deeply rooted fears which emerge when we face questions of ethnic diversity? How does knowing Jesus make a difference?