Fruit of the Spirit:         

Love

Spiritual Discipline:      

Fellowship

Fruit:                             

Strawberry

Prayer Focus:                

Disaster Relief – United States and Caribbean

Bible Memory Verse:   

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””

(Jn. 13:34-35, NASB)

 

Today’s Reading:

 

1 Jn. 4:7-21

 

No Fear in Love, No Love in Hate

Love > Fear

Love > Hate

Hate is not Innate

 

 

Earlier in the study, there was a question about what the opposite of each of the fruits of the Spirit is.

What do you think the opposite of love is?

Is it hate?  Indifference?  Fear?

Perhaps it is a combination of all of them.

This week, we are remembering the day fifty years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. King left an enduring legacy of his determination and fight for peace, equality, justice and love to the world.  As Christians, we must seek to continue that legacy and we must look at the role of the church in addressing and rectifying civil and human rights issues in our towns, cities, across our nation and all over the world.

Later in this Bible Study, we are going to look at the church’s role in bringing healing and hope vis-à-vis issues of racial reconciliation.  We’ll look at some very uncomfortable statements and actions of Christians in order to better understand why some people outside of the church do not trust the church, especially with regard to racism, prejudice and bigotry.  Then, we’ll spend some time studying followers of Christ who are walking the talk and who have spoken out against injustice and who have fought alongside people of all nations, colors, creeds and beliefs in order to promote justice, love, freedom, equality and acceptance in America and across the world.

While we may have thought racism and prejudice were an ugly part of our nation’s past, recent years have shown that there are many in America who still harbor hate against people based solely on their skin color, country of origin, faith, gender or partisanship.

We’ll look at the hypocrisy we sometimes see in the world and, sadly, in the church.  Whether it’s related to immigration, police brutality, equality, sexual assault or hate crimes, bigotry, prejudice and hypocrisy continue to plague our nation and divide our communities and churches.

After looking at the past and present of racism, prejudice, discrimination and hypocrisy, we’ll talk about how we can build a better tomorrow by loving others as Christ commanded and as He loves us.  That study focus will be when we look at the spiritual fruit of peace, two weeks from now.

In today’s study, we will talk about how we must choose love – it is a choice that each of us must make every single day.  Will we show love, even in the face of ugliness?  Will we reject hate, fear and indifference?  The world is watching followers of Christ to see if we live out our faith – or if we say one thing and do another.  Many people are looking for hope in this dark world.  We can be hope and light to hurting people and we can guide people to make better choices and choose love and kindness simply by choosing to love God and love others.

Every day, we read stories in the news that should give us pause, break our hearts and stories that should move us to stand up and get involved to help people and make our world better, stronger, more loving – and to share the love of God with a hurting world.

It seems as though in virtually all of the dark and tragic news stories, the driving force of disunity is fear, hate and indifference.

Fear and Hate of those who…

look different from them

speak different from them

believe different from them

vote different from them

act different from them

live different from them

 

And Indifference..

to get involved,

to take a stand

to defend the weak

to help the needy

to speak up

to oppose the evil and hateful

to take a risk

to do something about the problems in our world.

 

Some people fear that others will take their jobs – an “other” that seems to be anybody other than someone who looks, talks and thinks just like them.

Some people fear that their old way of life is threatened – and so they fear whomever they perceive to be the cause of the changes in our culture.

Some people fear the future and fear that they may not have a place in tomorrow’s world.

Some people fear that others are better, smarter, richer, more attractive or more successful than they are – and so they try to destroy them instead of understanding, learning from, accepting and embracing them.

Some people fear that their best days are behind them, so they lash out in rage.

Some people fear that they will never be accepted and they feel angry, cast aside and unwanted.

Some people fear that they will never be loved, so they close themselves off to loving others and enter a world of anger, hate and rage – a world that will ultimately destroy them and others.

Yet we are so much more alike than we realize.  Though we may look, speak and think differently, we share much in common and we so desperately need each other.

We are one people, created and loved by God .  Each one of us was given life by the Creator of the universe.  Each of us has a unique story that tells of our history and experiences.  We all have hurts, struggles, love, memories, joy and sorrow within us.

Though we are many, in Christ we are one.

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom. 12:4-5, NASB)

Jesus had the antidote to fear, hate and indifference.

LOVE.

It’s free and it is available to all of us, if we are simply willing to give and receive it.

It is an emotion that we are hardwired for – God made us to love others as He loves us.

We are literally born seeking love.  It is one of the first reflexes we have when we enter this world.  Babies almost immediately need and want to be fed, held and comforted by their parents.  A baby is born with a grasping reflex and there are countless pictures of newborns with their entire hand wrapped around their parent’s finger, holding love in their hand.

Babies are also born with a need and God-given reflex to eat, immediately seeking nourishment and sustenance.  We are born needing and wanting love.  Babies who have love in their early days and months thrive and grow, while babies who do not receive love and affection often struggle and suffer.   Love is our first reflex and our first need when we enter this world – to be held, loved, cared for and protected.

A newborn baby wants the simplest things of life – food, naps and to be held and loved.  Often a little one is soothed just by being held, rocked, quiet songs sung for them or sweet and gentle words spoken.

We all want to be loved, accepted and understood.

This is how God made us.

At our essence, this is what we as humans long for and want, even as adults – more than money, power, fame, prestige and success.  As the saying goes, you can’t buy love.  It has to be given away and we must choose to give and receive love to and from one another – and even to love and accept ourselves.

We all want to be known, loved and welcomed.

Somewhere along the way, though, it’s possible for us as humans to lose our way and stop loving each other and even stop loving ourselves.

Babies aren’t born racist.  They aren’t born bigoted or prejudiced.

Hate is a learned emotion.  It is taught and reinforced by others, by media messages, by music and movies, by television and internet programs, by friends and family members, teachers, religious leaders, athletes, celebrities, politicians and by those who are consumed by hate.

Babies don’t reject each other because of the color of their skin.

Hate is taught by those who hate.  Hate is learned by those who are not taught to love.

We must teach our children well.  We must teach them to love God and to love each other.

In the 1940s, two psychologists conducted studies to see how children perceived skin color and what character traits they assigned to dolls with different colored skin.  This husband and wife team, Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, showed the young children four dolls who looked completely alike – except for their skin color.

They asked the children to tell them what race the dolls were and they asked the children which doll they preferred.

This experiment was eye-opening and life-changing for the psychologists.  Their findings were later used in the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education.  They found that African-American children perceived themselves as less than and they had shame and embarrassment about their identity as African-Americans.

Some young children had learned to hate themselves because of their skin color while others had learned to prejudge, rank and hate other children based on skin color.  These were the results of the messages those with power and control in those days were teaching them through segregation.  By separating students from each other based on ethnicity and race, the prejudiced and powerful of their time– and of many previous generations – had effectively taught that one group is better and more than and one group is worse and less than.

They found and proved that segregation had a debilitating effect on society as a whole – the message was hateful, hurtful, divisive and destructive.

To watch videos from the 1960s of white students protesting against integration in the schools is heartbreaking and stomach turning.  White students in elementary, middle and high school stood outside the schools protesting, carrying hateful and angry signs, throwing things at the African-American students, hurling anger and venom.

Hate is not innate.  We are not born hating anyone.

Hate is learned.  Hate does not come naturally.  We are not born hating other people.   Hate is taught by those who hate.  It can become a stubborn legacy, one generation to the next.

But, praise God, hate can be unlearned.  And fear can be unlearned.  And we can learn to love each other – we can even learn to love people who are full of anger, hate and ugliness.  This does not mean we allow those people to abuse or hurt us.  It just means that when racists and bigots attack and insult us, we don’t respond in kind.  We don’t hurl back angry words or spew hate online or in-person.  When we read angry, mean, racist and bigoted tweets, we don’t respond with the same anger and cruelty.

As Michelle Obama so eloquently and powerfully said, “When they go low, we go high.”

We must choose to love and we must choose to get involved and to do something to counter the hate and fear.  The only thing that will counter the hate and fear that is so prevalent in our society today is love.

We must choose to be loving, even when other people are not.  We must choose to forgive people, even when they don’t apologize.  And we must choose to continue to show love and act in a way that glorifies God, even when people all around us are not.

We are to hate two things in this life – we are to hate sin and we are to hate what is evil.  Anything that would separate us from God, we are called to hate and reject.

Other than that, God calls us to love.  To love Him, to love each other, to love others.

His own Son commanded us to love each other, so that people would know we are His disciples.

God made each of us.  We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139:14)   To hate another human being is to hate God’s own creation.  If we have hate towards our brothers and sisters in our hearts, we are disobeying Christ’s commandment to love each other and we are rejecting God, because God is love, God loves us so much that He gave us Jesus and God gave us love. (1 Jn. 4:8, Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 4:7)

“ If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. 1 Jn. 4:20-21 NASB

We must choose to love.

As followers of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living in us and He will give us the power, the strength and the ability to love others, to love everyone.

Jesus loved everyone.

And He calls us to love everyone.

Do you remember Chris Singleton, the son of Sharonda Singleton, a woman who was shot and killed in June 2015 while she was attending a Bible study at her church in South Carolina?

He chose to forgive and he chose even to love the man who killed his mom.

Chris Singleton said that “love is always stronger than hate.”

And love is stronger than fear.

Dr. King said that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

The apostle John wrote that in love, there is no fear.

 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 Jn. 4:18 NASB

We must reject fear and hate.  Perfect love will cast out fear.

When the angels appeared to people when Jesus was to be born, after His birth and after His resurrection, they told the people they visited not to be afraid and they gave them words of encouragement and comfort.

It’s as though God knew we would have a predisposition and tendency to fear what we don’t know or understand. That people would have questions as they tried to make sense of this life.  That they would have fears, uncertainties and confusion. 

And God sent His angels to comfort and encourage His children, to dispel their fears and to assure them that He was with them, that He was in control, and that there was no reason to fear.

 

What might some of the questions have been?

 

What would people think of Joseph, marrying a woman pregnant before their wedding day?

 

“And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.””

(Matt. 1:19-21, NASB)

 

How could a woman past child-bearing age become pregnant?

 

 “And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will [give him the name John.”

(Lk. 1:11-13, NASB)

 

How could a virgin become pregnant?

 

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 

(Lk 1:26-33, NASB)

 

What happened to Jesus?  Why wasn’t He in the tomb?  Where did He go?  How is it possible that He is alive?  How could He have died, but now be alive?

 

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

(Matt. 28:1-6, NASB)

 

As we ask questions of God, His Word teaches us that we must trust and obey.  That we must have faith – even faith the size of a mustard seed will be big enough faith.

He tells us not to fear, that He is with us and will never leave or forsake us.

And He commands us to love.

To love Him and to love His children.

All of His children.

Not just the ones who look, speak, sound, act, dress, worship, live, love, vote and think like we do.

He called us to love each other.  To love our brothers and sisters in Christ – and also to love the world just as He loves the world.

The whole world.

We are to be salt and light, pointing people to our hope in Christ.

Few people come to know Christ as a result of angry Christians full of hate, venom and hurtful words.

But many people have been loved into the arms of Jesus as a result of committed Christ-followers who loved others tangibly, authentically and unabashedly.

Fear is a dangerous emotion.  Often, it will cause us to behave in irrational ways.

Fear seems to be a precursor to hate.  When people fear what is different from them, they may begin to hate what is different from them.

Fear builds walls.  Love builds bridges.

Fear is a liar.

Fear separates us from others and it even separates us from ourselves and from our own humanity.  Fear separates us from God as we seek to control our lives rather than allowing God control over our lives.

Those who have hated people for their skin color, their religion, their voting habits, their lifestyle, their appearances, their wealth, their poverty, their homeland, their ancestors, their language, their disabilities, their imperfections – all of these hatreds have likely begun with fear, which transformed into hate, which metastasized into anger and then, sadly, has turned into violence and evil behaviors.

That little green Jedi Master from Dagobah had great wisdom when he said “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”

We must reject hate.

And we must reject fear of anything other than a reverential fear of God.

We must love each other.

Love is powerful.

Love changes the world.

It did on a hill in Calvary when, because of love, Christ laid down His life for us, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13, NASB)

Love changed the world when Dr. King wrote letters, led marches and gave speeches, embracing others through his nonviolent calls for action and change.

Love continues to change the world everywhere and every time we see extravagant and simple acts of kindness.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 Jn. 3:18, NASB)

We shall overcome someday.

God promises us an eternity with Him without fear, anger, death, sadness or pain.

But until we reach the other-worldly peace of heaven, let us seek to bring a bit of heaven down to earth as we love each other and others.  Let us allow God to pour love into us that we then extravagantly share with the world, letting our words and our deeds live out our faith and our love.

Let us change lives through love.

 

 

Questions

  1. Describe what love looks and feels like to you.

 

 

  1. Describe what hate looks and feels like to you.

 

 

  1. Why do you think people hate?

 

 

 

  1. Why do you think there has been an increase in hate, bigotry and prejudice in recent years?

 

 

 

  1. How can we show love to people who are hurtful or angry?

 

 

 

  1. What role do you think the church can play in loving the world?

 

 

 

  1. How diverse are your fellowship and friendship circles? Could you expand these circles so that you could know and be known by even more diverse groups of people?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have you ever felt feelings of hatred towards another, or have you ever felt hated by another?  If you feel comfortable doing so, briefly explain in the space below.

 

 

 

 

  1. Have you been able to make peace with yourself and with others, either for feeling hate or for being hated by another? If not, is there a way you can make peace today – either by forgiving them for their actions in hating you or in forgiving yourself for harboring anger or hate against another?  Satan would have you hold a grudge against someone for hurting you and he would condemn you for your sins and failures and suggest that you can’t possibly be a follower of Christ because you have had feelings of anger or hatred.  Yet the Bible teaches us that “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1, NASB).

 

Satan is a liar.  God has forgiven you and He loves you.  He wants us to walk with Him and talk with Him, knowing that we are forgiven and must forgive others in the same way that we have been lavishly forgiven.

 

If you have felt another’s hatred or you have harbored hate in your own heart, ask God to help you release that hatred, to release feelings of anger, to forgive others and to forgive yourself – and to experience the peace of God’s forgiveness and then to extend that same forgiveness to others.  Ask God to help you love the world – the whole world.  If you grew up in a prejudiced or bigoted home, if you were the victim of assault and feel hate towards the person who hurt you, if you have been abused, if you learned racism, sexism, intolerance or hatred, ask God to help you with whatever your feelings and experiences are.  Ask Him to bring healing, peace and hope to your life.

 

In the space below, offer a prayer to God asking Him to help you with whatever you have experienced and ask Him to guide you and to give you courage to speak up when you see injustice or hatred, to love others, to love even those who are full of hate, and to be a bright and strong light in this dark and lost world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actions

 

  1. Is there something you can do this week to show love to someone? It might be visiting with a neighbor, calling or emailing someone you’ve lost touch with over the years to catch up, asking a loved one how you can pray for them this week, encouraging someone you know who is going through a difficult time, giving a small gift or treat to coworker, neighbor, your child’s teacher, someone at church, etc., donating or volunteering with a nonprofit that is sharing love in your community, or just complimenting someone while you are standing in line at the store, at work or in your neighborhood.
  2. This week, we are going to talk about how to love and serve those in need, especially after disaster has entered their lives. Sometimes, that may be a natural disaster like a hurricane or wildfire.  At other times, those disasters can be health crises, financial hardships or other types of challenges.  If you feel led to do so, ask God if there is a place in your community where you can wash the feet of people in need.  Throughout this week, we will think and talk and consider what it means to love others and to wash their feet, as Jesus commanded us to.  As you pray this week, ask God to show you places where He may be calling you.
  3. Please be in prayer for the victims of last year’s hurricanes, wildfires and flooding in Texas, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Florida and California. Even though months have passed since these disasters, many people in these places continue to struggle as they seek to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods and lives.  This week we will be talking about people who have been “washing feet” by coming alongside the survivors in these places to be Christ’s hands and feet and to show them love, compassion, generosity and kindness.  We will talk about how we can pray for, support and encourage those serving and ministering to others as washers of feet as well as how we each can come alongside those enduring hardships in these areas as well as throughout our communities and all over the world so we can share very tangible and real examples of God’s love for them.
  4. If you are able, you may wish to enjoy some strawberries this week and as you do, be in prayer for the people who grow and harvest the strawberries. Strawberries grow abundantly in California and Texas, two of the places devastated by last year’s natural disasters.  Consider purchasing some berries at your local grocer or farmer’s market – and as you purchase, clean, prepare and enjoy them, be praying for the hands that have nurtured those strawberries so you might enjoy them.  You can enjoy something with fresh berries, or even strawberry ice cream, a strawberry smoothie, strawberry jam or strawberry yogurt!  This is just a tangible way for us to remember to pray for the people in our prayer focus and to seek to love and care for each other, loving all our neighbors as Jesus calls us to.

 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

 

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