In March and April 2010, the La Sierra University Church sermon series is focusing on how we can live gently in the violent world that surrounds us. While we recognize multiple biblical pictures of God, all of which teach us different aspects of God’s character and His relation with all of us, please join us in further study of this particular picture by responding to each item below.
Living Gently in a Violent World
A. How personal is violence in your world? Could you, or could any of your family members or close friends, as a participant, a witness, or a victim, answer in the affirmative to any of the following statements:
- "I have known violence in a military combat situation."
- "I have experienced violence in a law enforcement setting."
- "I have faced violence in gang-related activities."
- "I have been exposed to violent acts of terrorism."
- "I am acquainted with violence due to prejudice or bigotry."
- "I am familiar with violence in conditions of domestic abuse."
- "I prefer entertainment options that, because of violence, are rated for mature audiences."
- "I am aware of violence as a method of control by family members, guardians, or caretakers."
- "I know of incidents of clergy abuse of children."
- "I am conscious of times when animals have been treated cruelly and violently."
- "I have encountered violence in school situations of discipline, hazing, or bullying."
- "I am accustomed to hearing or using rough, aggressive, abusive language."
B. How much is too much? The World Health Organization and the Division of Violence Prevention of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that the amount of violence in the world "is unacceptably high" and that "coordinated prevention and control efforts are urgently needed." What level of violence is "unacceptably high" for you?
- Violence is part of our sinful nature and we should do everything we can to avoid it.
Violence is part of our heritage and culture and we just have to learn to live with it.
- We don’t want violence to have any hold in our house or with our family.
Violence is OK in our house as long as it just comes in the form of language or entertainment.
- The biblical position on violence clearly condemns it in all its forms.
Violence is biblical and we would be wise to incorporate that kind of strictness into our lives.
C. Study each of these five passages in your favorite Bible translation. Paraphrase each passage. Then, state what the verses say to you about being a follower of Christ:
- John 18:36 - "Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’"
- Isaiah 32: 18 - "My people will live in peaceful dwelling places."
- Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
- Philippians 4:5 - "Let your gentleness be evident to all."
- Matthew 11:29 - "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
- Followers of Christ...
D. Think about and respond to each of the following statements about the gentle Christian life. (You may already have heard these statements during the sermons in the current series.)
- "No one said living gently in a violent world is easy; but it is the only way."
- "Living gently is taught not caught."
- "Gentle is who Jesus is. And if it’s who Jesus is, then it’s who God is."
- "The cross represents power constrained."
- "Parents teach gentleness or violence by their example, instruction, and discipline."
E. Closely examine this El Greco painting (1600) of Jesus driving the money changers from the Temple (Mark 11:15-17).
- What is your understanding of what caused Jesus to take such drastic action?
- How do you think the money changers were misrepresenting the character of God?
- Notice that the people on the left side of the painting are moving away from Jesus. What conviction might have been in their hearts at this moment that caused them to move away?
- Now notice the people on the right side of the painting who all are leaning toward Jesus. What do you think is drawing them to Jesus?
- What circumstances can you imagine in which you as a gentle Christian would be motivated to stand up and let your voice be heard?
F. Read Galatians 5:19-23. Which words in this message to the church at Galatia describe the gentle Christian life? Which words describe actions that represent or lead to violent living?
G. Purchase a copy of a newspaper that carries international, domestic, and local news. Scan the headlines in the news sections (not sports, entertainment, or finances). Using a red marking pen, circle all the stories that report violence. Are there connecting threads you see running through the stories? Do any of the stories suggest ways to lessen the violence?
H. When we think of violence we often think of obvious, criminal actions such as terrorism, homicide, and sexual assault. But many people today are broadening the discussion. Consider the following phrases. Which actions do you feel qualify as violence? Who perpetrates such violence? Who are the victims of such violence?
- Emotional Abuse
- Taking a Weapon to School
- Parental Neglect
- Unequal Workplace Policies and Practices
- Addictive Behaviors
- Destruction of Property
- Eating Disorders
- Cruelty to Animals
- Verbal Threats
- Road Rage
I. Colossians 3:12 counsels us, "as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved," to clothe ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Spend a few minutes pursuing this metaphor of Christian living. How might we wear gentleness like clothing?
J. Begin a list of practical things you can do to live more gently. Your list might begin with commitments like these:
- I will set aside time each week to spend with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
- I will question the normalcy of dynamics in my life that are causing violence.
- I will name the things in my world that cause me to be afraid.
- I will be intentional about quieting the loud world in which I live.
- I will be careful to use a gentle tone of voice when disciplining my children.