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Bible Study Three - The Paradox of Hope

The Paradox of Hope

"We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us" - Oscar Romero

1. Naming the Issue
The main message of Jesus was in announcing the Kingdom of God, and calling people to take up their cross and follow him. What does it mean that the Kingdom of God is announced in the violent arrest, torture and execution of Jesus? What does this say for us about our faith and our hope against violence?

Do we as Christians have anything to say about or against violence?

2. Icebreakers
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9), Jesus says that the peacemakers are blessed.

Who are the peacemakers that you see? In our world, in our lives?
What makes for a peacemaker?
How are they blessed?

3. Pieces of the puzzle
a. Read Mark 8: 31-38

This passage stands at the mid point of Mark's gospel. Jesus has announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God, and called people to follow him into God's reign of peace and justice. But Mark is writing to a church community many years later (around 70CE) that is enduring Roman invasion, civil tension and persecution from their fellow Jews. For them this reign of peace and justice seem far off - so why is Mark reminding them of Jesus' call to take up their cross?

This call extends beyond announcing God's reign though. Jesus calls the disciples, and by implication each and every one of us to "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). The good news is not just the arrival of God's Kingdom, but also the path of discipleship that is the way of the cross.

What sort of hope is this?

We know how the story unfolds, and what the cross will mean for Jesus. So how does calling everyone to follow this same path bring good news and hope?

b. Read 2 Corinthians 4: 7-12

Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. His fundamental question was: Who's world is this? Jesus' world, or Caesar's world? His answers put him at odds with the world around him.
How do people in the group respond to the idea from this passage that we are:

afflicted, but not crushed
perplexed, but not driven to despair
persecuted, but not forsaken
struck down, but not destroyed

What sort of hope is this?

4. Putting it together
We've been reminded of Jesus' call to take up our cross and follow Him. To follow Jesus is to live out and to announce the Kingdom of God, where the first shall be last and the last shall the be first - a complete re-ordering of our societies.

Paul's story reminds us that being faithful to this call of Jesus will mean being at odds with the world around us. Paul doesn't seek out persecution and punishment. It is the reaction of those in control to the radical message we have inherited from Jesus.

We then, need to understand, that the way of the cross, that Paul trod and we walk, lives in the face of violence. Are we prepared to walk the way of the cross when it means setting our faces towards Jerusalem?

5. Going Further
In what ways have you experienced opposition because of your faith/belief?

Read Revelation 21: 1-8

What sort of hope is this?

6. Closing
To follow Jesus is not to flee from violence, but to be the Face of Love in the midst of violence.

The call to discipleship is not a call to do nothing - it is a call to live by the radical vision of the Kingdom of God.

The way of the cross does not guarantee a life filled with peace and harmony, but asks of us lives lived with hope amidst turmoil and brokenness.

The vision of a new heaven and a new earth is both a promise of things to come and the reality of the world we seek to create as faithful people.

The paradox is that we rely on the One who was crucified, the One who became the least, the One who loved the lost, the One who gave up His life for all, as the symbol of all that we might hope for and as the example for all that we might become.

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