Loving People You Don't Like - Week 1

The Image of God
Week of January 9, 2022

Opening Prayer
God, we start another year with a lot of the same struggles we ended last year with. Our faith hasn’t magically changed just because the calendar changed, but we start this year with renewed hope. As we make resolutions and set intentions, we invite you into our plans. Thank you for this group where we can experience you through one another. Use us to challenge, encourage, and support each other in the year ahead. Amen.

Historical Context
It seems appropriate that we begin the new year by looking at one of the first teachings of Jesus recorded in scripture. Our verses today come from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this message Jesus teaches his disciples what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. We are all too familiar with the problems of our world, but here we see a picture of what life could be like with God. Jesus includes many countercultural instructions including the command to love one’s enemies.

Read Aloud
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”

Matthew 5:43-48 (CEB)

Engaging Scripture
  • How would you describe the contrast between how the world tells us to treat our enemies and what Jesus is teaching?
  • According to this passage, what is the difference between loving people who love you and loving your enemies?

Application Questions
We do our best to love people we don’t like because Jesus tells us to. The more complicated question is how do we do that. Genesis 1 tells us that God created humans in God’s image. When we look at each person as a valuable and unique reflection of God it changes how we treat them. It helps us to remember that every person has something to teach us, deserves a certain level of respect, and exists beyond the stereotypes we use to label each other.

  • What person or group of people do you find especially difficult to love? Who frustrates you, gets on your nerves, and makes you less than kind? Be honest and hold this person or group of people in your mind throughout our discussion.
  • Have you ever learned something about God through someone else? What was that experience like?
  • Brainstorm time. What are some ways you can show respect and honor people who you disagree with? Make a list.
  • What do you think would change if you got to know someone from a group you dislike as an individual? Are you brave enough to try it?

Closing Prayer
Creator God, you made each and every one of us in your image, and we praise you for that. The same is true for the people we struggle to love. Help us to remember that every person we come in contact with is one of your beloved children. Begin to open our hearts to love people we don’t like. Amen.

Taking it Further
  • The Bible Project - The Image of God
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbipxLDtY8c&vl=en

  • A Drink with a Friend podcast - Arguing > Quarreling
https://drink.substack.com/p/77

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