Discussion Guide: April 18, 2021
ONE Message Series
The Religion That God Our Father Accepts (#1)
“Look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27a).
In his book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, historian Tom Holland makes this observation about his study of ancient history – particularly the history of the Roman Empire. “It was not just the extremes of callousness that unsettled me, but the complete lack of any sense that the poor or the weak might have the slightest intrinsic value” (p.16). Then came
Jesus. Then came the Christian religion. And from Christ and his church came the doctrine of the intrinsic value of every human being. Holland argues that this commonly accepted value of Western Civilization arises directly from the Judeo-Christian faith.
Comment on the paragraph above. Is it more impressive for you to know that Tom Holland is an atheist? That historians generally point to the fact that Christian concern for the poor, sick, and marginalized was a major factor in its spread through the Roman Empire?
How would you define the word “compassion”? How does the expression “take care of widows and orphans” constitute an insight into the concept?
What were some of the OT protections Yahweh required Israel to take on behalf of the poor?
See Deut 15:7-8; Lev 19:9-10; Prov 19:17.
On the day Jesus initiated his public ministry and began to identify himself as Israel’s promised Messiah, the text he read and claimed to be fulfilling identified him with the poor, oppressed,
and marginalized. What significance do you attach to this? See Luke 4:14-21.
We sometimes distinguish “doctrinal orthodoxy” from “concern for social justice” (or, perhaps, “benevolence”). Does James 1:27 make that distinction? Or does it identify compassion as a
Christian “doctrine”? Read Matt 25:31-46 in connection with your answer to this question.
What are some ministries at Harpeth Hills that are helping us model Christ’s concern for the poor and marginalized? How do you involve yourself in those ministries? What others should we
consider that would expand our footprint in serving people in situations of special need?
End your study time by praying for those we are helping from the Easter Sunday contribution whose homes were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes and/or flooding – and ask God to help us find additional ways to be involved with neglected and underserved people.