Christianity and World Religions: Christianity
Session 6 John 3:16-21
Session Goals: As a result of conversations and activities connected to this session, group members should begin to:
Understand how Christianity answers humanity’s deepest existential questions.
Appreciate John 3.16 as a summary of Christian Beliefs
Identify chesed and agape as Biblical terms that illuminate God’s character; and
Articulate an approach to other world religions from a Christian perspective.
John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Opening Activity: Do a Review of World Religions
In this study we have been looking at major World Religions from a Christian perspective and trying to understand how they answer some of humanity’s most basic questions about life and the universe. Today we will be studying our own faith—Christianity. Because this is our last session, however, we will do a little review of what we have learned so far.
I need four volunteers to answer the questions on the sheets provided about each of the religions:
What are the sacred texts?
What are the major beliefs?
What else do you recall about these religions?
What have you appreciated about studying World Religions in this way?
What more would you like to learn?
God you are greater than our understanding and higher than our highest thoughts.
Along with our neighbors, we seek answers for what happens in the lives we live and the things we do not understand.
We thank you for your revelation of yourself in Jesus Christ and for his message of unending love.
It is because you loved us that we seek to love others. Amen.
We will play the Video
Observations after the Video:
Hamilton chooses John 3.16 as the summary of the Gospel. Why is this verse useful in helping us to understand the basics of the Christian faith?
Hamilton highlights four basic questions that human beings ask:
Am I loved?
Is there a purpose to life?
Can I be forgiven?
Is there hope?
How do we confront these questions in our lives? Do you have others?
Although Hamilton finds things in the other religions to which he can say, “Yes,” he does feel that Christianity offers a fullness not found in other religions. What do you think of this assertion?
What does John 3.16 teach us? Need four volunteers.
Part One: God so loved the world. See Pages 130-131 in our text)
Chesed: (Hebrew) is often translated as loving kindness
Numbers 14:19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
19 Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.”
Psalm 23:6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
oPsalm 103:8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
§8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Agape (Greek) is often translated as love for other humans.
Matthew 5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
oMatthew 22:37-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
o1 John 4:7-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
How can understanding these passages help us to understanding the scope of the words for love in Scripture?
How will this help us to understand what we are being called to do when God commands us to love?
Part Two: that he gave his only begotten son (Read aloud pages 134-135)
How does the second phrase of John 3.16 explain how God so loved the world?
Hamilton calls Jesus, “God’s love letter in human flesh.” What does God tell us in this love letter?
What is the purpose of human life as revealed in Jesus?
How does your community of faith offer love in action?
As you look at the community in which you live—who needs love right now?
How could you show love in action?
Part Three: that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish
This phrase reminds us that we are in a broken World. Hamilton describes sin as missing the mark. Does this help you understand sin? Sin is a difficult term for everyone. If sin is difficult for us to define, how difficult do you think it is for people who do not understand Christian terminology?
Why do you think we have difficulty talking about sin?
On the next page—draw a picture depicting something you think has been disfigured by sin. No one needs to share unless they want to.
Something that disfigures our world today.
In Chapter 6 of our text, Ephesians 2.10 is quoted as saying, “we are God’s accomplishment.” Hamilton says the root of the word accomplishment is “a work of art or poetry created to reflect God’s love.” This time draw a vision of what God could do to transform the area of disfigurement in humanity that you identified previously. No pressure to share unless you feel inclined.
Part Four: but have everlasting life. (We will read the passage aloud.)
Envisioning Eternal Life
Skim pages 142-144 to refresh your memory.
What images have you had of what heaven is like?
What does it mean that we can start experiencing everlasting life now?
How does this vision of everlasting life differ from some of the beliefs about the afterlife we have studied in other religions?
Read aloud “Learning from Love (144-145)
What can our experiences with love tell us about God’s love for us?
Who can you “dance with” this week to experience and share God’s love?
Give Thanks for Learning
We will go around the room asking each person to share one or two sentences that begin with either
I am grateful for . . .
I hope for . . .