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Bible Study Two - The Face of Love

The Face of Love

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars" - Martin Luther King Jr

1. Naming the Issue
There is difference between us. There is diversity among us. There is variety all around us.
How we acknowledge and deal with these differences has an incredible impact on our relationships with other people.

Violence exists in our relationships when we see our diversity as something that is threatening, rather than a gift to be celebrated.

2. Ice breaker
Find a way to give each person in the group a range of faces to look at - photographs, magazines, drawings etc. Ask each person to name what they believe people are feeling by the looks on their faces in the pictures.

If you have no such resources ask the people in the group to express something through a look on their face. Have one person at a time write down what they believe the different members of the group are feeling by the looks on their faces.

Invite group members to share their interpretations of the looks they saw on different faces. The emphasis should not be on trying to get answers ‘correct' but to highlight the variety of responses people have to various facial expressions.

3. Piece of the Puzzle
Assign one of the Bible passages below to each person in the group. It's OK if more than one person end up with each passage - they can work in small groups or as individuals. Each passage contains an interaction between Jesus and another person.

Luke 4: 31 - 37 The man with an unclean spirit
Luke 5: 12 - 16 Jesus cleanses a leper
Luke 5: 17 - 26 Jesus heals a paralytic
Luke 5: 27 - 32 Jesus calls Levi
Luke 7: 11 - 17 Jesus raises the widow's son at Nain
Luke 7: 36 - 50 A sinful woman forgiven
Luke 8: 42b - 48 A woman healed

Ask each person to read their assigned passage and try to imagine themselves as the person Jesus is interacting with.

Spend some time talking about answers to questions such as these: What does Jesus' face look like to the person in the story? What does Jesus' face express? What does his face represent to the person he is interacting with?

What would it mean for us to name Jesus as the Face of Love?

4. Piece of the Puzzle 2
Our faces can tell us about many of the differences between people. Faces can carry distinguishing features that help us to identify such things as race, gender, culture etc.
When was the last time you walked through a crowded (city) street? Close your eyes and imagine the faces you might see.

How do you react to:

a homeless man singing at the top of his lungs
two or three Middle-Eastern young men, talking and laughing
a couple of schoolgirls, engrossed on conversation
business people, walking with purpose
an old school friend you haven't seen in years, but who you're not keen to talk to
an older person on a walking frame blocking pedestrian traffic
some tourists, asking for directions

What thoughts and feelings do you have when you imagine seeing these people?

How are your reactions affected by the differences you believe there are between you and these people?

5. Putting it together
Ask participants to talk about any films they've seen which include stories of people encountering others who are different.

Ask participants to talk about their own (negative and positive) experiences of encountering people who were different

Are there any common themes to the positive stories about encountering difference? What do people think enables us to get past those things that make us different?

6. Going Further
Luke 9: 51 (in the NRSV):
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem"

Talk about what people think the phrase ‘set his face' means here?

What will happen to Jesus in Jerusalem?

So then, Jesus sets his face towards a place where much violence will occur, and we are made aware that our life of faith will cause us to do the same.

7. Closing
Violence appears in many forms in our life together, not just in its various physical expressions. Our experience of diversity may have led to the violence that exists in excluding, labelling or denigrating others.

Our fear of difference can lead us to try to protect or control what we know. Life again becomes a property to be defended rather than a gift to be shared.

Spend some time praying and reflecting on the ways in which we have given in to the fear of difference.

You might want to name for yourself 2 or 3 people who you struggle in relationship with due to differences between you.

Think of a meaningful way for your particular group to commit itself to love, inclusion, healing and respect for difference.

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