Group Identity and Reconciliation
By Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer (15 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Spend a few minutes catching up on life and discussing how the last Practice went.
Read this overview
In our current cultural climate, it can be easy to assume that discussing race, racism, and systemic injustice is a political act. Voices within the church call to, “keep politics out of the church”, and “preach only the gospel.” They are phrases that can come across as pious, or spiritually mature and unaffected by the angst of the world outside the church.
Ultimately, that position is untenable in the face of the Scriptures, and particularly the story of how the church began. The 1st century world of Jesus and his followers was rife with racism and injustice. For us, 2,000 years removed and in a different culture, language used in the New Testament has lost most of its nuance of racial tension. Jew and Gentile, Samaritan, Greek and barbarian, were all terms that would have carried with them the potential for prejudice, hatred, and disdain.
There were cultural, historical, ethnic, and even theological reasons for the racial tensions and overt racism between these people groups. It was complicated. But the story of the Scriptures, and the story of the book of Acts in particular, shows the work of God’s Spirit in racial reconciliation within the church. As the good news of Jesus was proclaimed, the different iterations of racism within the host culture were confronted and abolished.
Discuss the coming week’s Practice (5 minutes)
This week set aside time to read a story in Acts involving racial reconciliation within the church. As you read the story, notice the attention given to ethnicity, religious ideas of cleanness and uncleanness, social customs that separated Jew and Gentile, and God’s direct activity in this situation.
Read Acts chapter 10. Invite God’s Spirit to speak to you as you read. Take note of things that stand out to you in the text. After reading the chapter, take a moment to listen, asking God to reveal to you any ways in which you are unwilling to address racial reconciliation. Finish your time by reading Acts 11v1-18. Notice the response of the believers in Jerusalem to what Peter had done. Be prepared to discuss your thoughts and reactions next week with your Community.
Work through these discussion questions together as a Community (15 – 20 minutes)
- In what areas of life do you embrace a group identity (e.g. your alma mater, favorite sports team, follower of Jesus, profession, etc.)?
- In what ways does following Jesus transcend group identities (e.g. social and economic classes, nationalities)? In what ways does it incorporate group identities (e.g. male and female, different cultural expressions, believers/unbelievers).
- Recall a story from the Scriptures where Jesus acknowledges and then transcends group identity (e.g. stories involving women, Samaritans, Gentiles, sinners and tax collectors). Share what story comes to your mind.
Take Communion (10 minutes)
Close in prayer (5 minutes)