Courage beyond the comfort zone | Bible study

 

COURAGE BEYOND THE COMFORT ZONE

Rev. Steve Francis

Synod of Western Australia

 

I first met Mary one Sunday morning when she came to church with her husband. Both were Chinese nationals. Mary had recently come to Australia having completed a PhD in the UK. She and her husband were part of the ‘Tiananmen Square generation’ of Chinese students who had witnessed the tremendous cost of standing up for justice, democracy and freedom at a time where such concepts were devalued by Maoist ideology.

 

While in England, Mary wanted to improve her English, so began attending a church that offered English conversational classes. During those conversations, the unique claims of Jesus Christ surfaced, and Mary was drawn to the gospel narrative. In time, she became a Christ follower and gave over her life to the Prince of Peace.

 

A job offer brought her to a university in Australia and her search for a church began. On her first Sunday morning, she noticed several other Asian people in the congregation and began to feel at home. Mary and her husband were not content to be mere pew sitters. Their experience of Christ was so deep and profound that they began to look for ways of serving Christ and their beloved Chinese community. Eventually they approached the minister and asked if he could help them in forming a small conversational English class with the New Testament as the text. The group began with four members. Today, over a hundred students come to the ESL group.

 

Mary understands the struggles that many overseas students have when they arrive in a strange country. She and her team love and serve the Chinese community in so many ways; English tuition, finding furniture and fridges, giving advice on part-time jobs, offering hospitality, prayer, Christian discipleship and pastoral support.

 

Mary is a peacemaker, she brings people together in the name of Christ and helps others discover the shalom of God.

 


Bible study

 

Read Mathew 5: 1-11 ‘The Beatitudes’

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Christ’s Sermon on the Mount fills me with bliss even today. Its sweet verses have the power to quench my agony of soul.” Does it have the same effect on us Christians?

 

Reflection

 

Lent is a good time to think about peace. It is a season for Christians to step back from the busyness and the fast pace of life to consider the core virtues of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Central to the gospel and the ministry of Jesus was a call to live out the peace of God. On a Galilean hillside Jesus gave his epic teaching, his manifesto for living a God-centred life that we call the Sermon on the Mount. It reminds us of the blessings of life when lived God’s way. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God” (Matthew 5:9). Is there a higher calling than this? As Scott McKnight puts it, “peace is one of those great Biblical words that captures the entire intent of God for God’s people. God wants us to dwell in peace.”[1] This does not simply mean living in the absence of conflict, living in a place of truce or ceasefire. It means seeking to practice grace, reconciliation and forgiveness, actively seeking the wellbeing of individuals and our society. The rich Hebrew word shalom carries with it the godly desire for people to rise beyond conflict and fear and live with justice in deep respect for each other. In Jesus Christ, we see the difficult art of peacemaking being practiced. Sometimes it means going the extra mile; turning the other cheek and refusing to seek revenge. On other occasions, it means offering words and prayers of comfort, kindness and support to others. Peace that is shaped by Jesus, the Prince of Peace, means paying careful attention to those who are doing it tough; the aged pensioner, the lonely student, the struggling mother, the recently bereaved, the refugee and the jobless. Sometimes it means championing their cause or looking for ways of including them. Jesus also reminds us that peace is a gift from God. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:7). In intentionally serving Christ and others we do not earn God’s peace, but we receive it as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Are you a peace maker or just a peace lover?

 

[1] McKnight, S 2014, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church, Brazos, Grand Rapids USA.

 

 

Discuss together

 

  • What is a peacemaker? Is it different to being a “do-gooder?”
  • Reflect on all the blessings in the Beatitudes. What do they have in common? (Structure, themes, content). What is Jesus doing?
  • Can you think of times when Jesus brought peace through healing or teaching? Did he ever disturb the peace? Why?
  • Think about your faith community. Do you have examples of times when conflict has been poorly resolved? How can the church develop better peacemaking skills?

 

Going Global 🌏

 

One of the legacies of the conflict in Timor Leste, which saw more than one third of the population killed or starved during the Indonesian occupation, is very poor health. The country has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world; highly contagious respiratory diseases like tuberculosis are rife. In this setting, our church partners go to remote rural areas, into people’s homes, to teach them about the simple measures they can take to help protect their families from disease.

 

Watch the fifth Lent Event video, Courage Beyond the Comfort Zone

 

Albert, Ana and other health workers live very simple lives themselves, often facing the same challenges as those within the communities they serve. They also risk poor health and at times, their wages are not adequate to cover their needs. Health workers are in demand everywhere. They say they serve because they want to use the skills they’ve been blessed with to end suffering and build their community.

 

Discussion questions

 

  • Do you think some people genuinely have a special call in order to be able to work in these conditions, or do you believe some simply have the courage, determination and compassion to make it work?
  • Have you ever felt called or challenged to go beyond your comfort zone to provide care for someone in physical need? What gave you the courage to do that? What were the benefits for you and for the person you cared for?

 

Pray

 

Spend some time together giving thanks for those who have the courage to reach out to others to bring peace in many different ways; those like Mary who provide a place of welcome and practical resources here in Australia, and our partners in Timor Leste who give people the knowledge they need to avoid and recover from disease.  Pray that we might be tempted beyond our own comfort zones to notice, find and reach those who need our support. 

When you ‘pass the peace’ during worship on Sunday, do it more prayerfully than before.

 

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