Week 4: Humanity

This is our continuation of a series called “Clear”: Theological Foundations of Faith based on the book written by Chris Folmsbee.

This week was part 4 dealing with the concept of Humanity.

Here is a basic sketch and outline of how we approached the evening’s topic:

Opening Prayer:  Jenny

Opening Group Activity:  Mary
Divide Group into 3 or 4 teams giving each group either a magazine/newspaper or one section of a newspaper
Ask them to find an interesting story about the Human condition:  suffering, joy, trials, victory, etc.
They should read the article as a group and be able to have someone share a brief recap
As a group they need to answer the following Questions:
What was this story about?
Why did you chose this story?
What does this story and the people involved reveal about Humanity?
Where can you find God in the story?

This proved to be a fascinating and engaging open activity.  We had a copy of that day’s  NY Times and Wall St. Journal, in addition to Newsweek, Time, and I think Glamour magazines.

It was interesting to see which publications and sections the groups chose and then, even more revealing, to see which articles or stories they picked.

Each group was given about 10 minutes and came back into the room to discuss.

We had a story about refugees trying to escape Libya, a professional baseball player on a compassion trip to Africa, local story about parental abuse, a national story of a woman using the internet to find her long-lost twin sister, and of course one group picked a poll claiming that the husbands are more ok with their wives cheating on them with another woman then a man.

Fascinating stories and each one revealed a different dimension of the human condition.,

Large Group Discussion:  Dan
I began our discussion with uncovering common questions I hear, and have often asked myself:

Who are we and why are we here?
Why did God make me this way?
Was I made by accident or on purpose?

Many of our students are struggling to find identity and acceptance and these questions lie at the root of the answers.

In order to attempt to answer these type of questions and relate it back to Week 1: God, we did another short activity

Group Interaction:   Lauretta
recap from Week 1:God
circle the attributes of God that are healthy for humans to desire and take on themselves:
All powerful            Slow to anger            loving
in control            All-knowing            Redeeming
forgiving            ability to decided what is or isn’t sin
Creative            gets the final word

It is important to us to understand that each individual is created unique and in the image of God.  We have certain attributes of God that should be sought after, discovered, and celebrated.

We had them close their eyes and silently answer the following questions:

I special talent I have is ___________

It makes me laugh when __________

The last thing I want to do in school is _____________

When I watch the news, I get upset when ________________

I feel God’s pleasure when I am ____________ (of course this one can be a bit risky…..!!)

What really makes me smile is ______________

The point of this exercise is for students to realize that are in fact unique and special and that God knows those answers and loves them.

He has made them in His image and their identity and sense of worth can be found in who create them and why

We went back to the list of attributes and highlighted the ones we did not circle

“However, there are other aspects of God that humans often seek after and lead us down dangerous paths (this served as a good precursor to next week….)   Once we think we have the right to be all-knowing or know what is best for our own lives or others, we fall into the trap of self-deception and trying to make God into our own image.  This can be the dark side of humanity. ”

Flashback: When I first taught on the doctrine of Humanity, I began with the Fall, according to Genesis 3.  I spoke about Human depravity, rather than human goodness.  I really cannot simplify the comparison more than that.  My goal was to convince the students that they were bad, and in fact all humans were inherently bad and incapable of good.  It was a very us vs. them mentality of everything and everyone in the “world” was corrupt and evil and therefore we should be separate.  I realize some people’s theological traditions and understanding lead them towards a unique view of total depravity, and I suppose that was along the lines of my way of thinking as well (and that was certainly what I taught!)

After our conversation about what makes us special, unique, and set apart, we moved onto what unites us as humans.

What commonality does humanity share in?

Scripture Reading: Will
Genesis 1:26-31

What should unite us?

We talked about the biblical statement that all humans (even those of different race, gender, religion, etc..) were and are created in God’s image and created “good” (now I realize this was before the “Fall” but that lesson is next week…..)

The point being that we are all God’s children, there is no different or favoritism.  In fact, Jesus speaks out against favoritism towards people.  Yes, it is true that God calls out and sets apart chosen people and people groups…but this is also done for a purpose of eventual reconciliation and unity.

God wants to restore our original goodness and innocence and return or re-create his image in us.
2 Corinthians 5: 16-18

I concluded with a wonderfully powerful illustration from the movie Blood Diamond

I prefaced the context of the movie and set up the following narrative scene:

Danny Archer: So you think because your intentions are good, they’ll spare you, huh?

Benjamin Kapanay: My heart always told me that people are inherently good. My experience suggests otherwise. But what about you, Mr. Archer? In your long career as a journalist, would you say that people are mostly good?

Danny Archer: No. I’d say they’re just people.
Benjamin Kapanay: Exactly. It is what they do that makes them good or bad. A moment of love, even in a bad man, can give meaning to a life. None of us knows whose path will lead us to God. – Blood Diamond (2006)

“You see, people’s actions and decisions can steer the path of their life often to or away from God.  People are people, created good in God’s image, but suffering the consequences of trying to be God in their own lives and play God in the lives of others.

And often, we make poor decisions and those decisions (and consequences) often become our identity.  Once this happens, we tend to believe in the lie that we are bad and thus have no hope.  There is a difference between being bad and doing bad things.  So often we do not know the full story of those people we label as “bad”.  We judge them knowing true knowledge.  That is not our right to do so, and God made that clear (stay away from that Tree…..)

Often those without knowledge are the first to judge.”

This all set up our closing video which I set up about Solomon’s kidnapped son who was living in his false identity.

Closing Video  From Blood Diamond “You are a good boy”

There is great truth and transformation when your Father calls you by name and speaks the truth of your real identity.

Will you hear that tonight?

Will you begin to live into that identity?

Will you start to view others as God sees them and not as a product of their decisions or actions?

Closing Prayer: Will

Great, awesome and might God: I lay myself at your feet

Grant me the ability to see the uniqueness in me and in others.

Grant me the desire to embrace and celebrate the diversity in people.

Grant me the opportunity to go beyond my personal feelings and share with others the uniqueness you’ve created within each of us.

God, may my ability, desire, and action on these opportunities before me be pleasing to you.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rather than divide into our normal small groups to end our time together, I decided to keep everyone together and collectively share our thoughts and reflections based upon the following questions:

Discussion Questions:

1) What do you think it means that we are all created in God’s image?

2) Does that apply to people who are born differently than us?

3) What do you think it could look like for the us to see the world with the lens of God?
to see everyone as a child of God and equal as common humans, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexuality?

4) Would this be a good thing or a bad thing?

*Final thought for personal reflection:
What can you do to begin the process in your own world?

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