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Circles of Affection

• David Morrow

As we continue our Christmas series, “Do you See What I See: Looking at How to See Christmas Through God’s Eyes,” we focus on the shepherds. As with most of Luke’s Gospel, being centered on Jesus’ interactions with the marginalized (including the shepherds as a key part of the birth story) is no accident. In Jesus’ day the shepherds as a people group were one of the more despised, untrusted, unclean, & judged people in society. In this message we learn how to stop automatically categorizing who’s in and who’s out based on superficial judgements of worth, and how to recognize the marginalized peoples in our own society and what God might have to say through them.

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Luke is the only gospel that records the shepherds as part of the story of Jesus’ birth. This is no accident as much of Luke’s gospel is geared around Jesus’ interactions with the marginalized people of His society. It’s important to note Luke’s placing of where God shows up is with those on the underside of power and privilege in the society. There would have been a clear connection for the shepherds with the Star of David as he was likely one of their heroes, moving from a shepherd boy to a King – so also a clear connection is being made in their instructions to find the baby in a manger given their interactions with sheep. The gentleness of God always finds common ground to connect with us.

The culture of judging and looking down upon shepherds was pervasive in Jesus’ day. Throughout society they were viewed as unclean, untrustworthy, outsiders who were not fit to participate in the life of the culture. There angels’ invitation to the shepherds counters everything the society around them was telling them. When God speaks He reverses all the language of insiders and outsiders making the proclamation that “who they say you are is not who God says you are.”

Although God spoke and showed how inclusive His Kingdom truly is, at the end of the day after the birth of Jesus the shepherds were still shepherds and still left on the outside looking in. This begs the question for us today, who are the marginalized people in our society that we have written off and made assumptions about many times without even knowing why? Many times the perception is not the reality, but yet it still exists unless it is confronted. What’s in our head is where the journey to collapse judgements begins.

David introduced a helpful diagram called the circles of affection:

  • Inner circle – consists of my closest people, my family, my friends, my small group, my house church. These are the people that when you show up at a party you immediately feel safe and feel belonging when they are there. While these people are important in a healthy balance, they can also become the single greatest hindrance to Kingdom hospitality. This “in” and “out” system is the basis behind many “-isms” like racism, classism, sexism, & nationalism.
  • Next circle – people of the same race, same socioeconomic class, same neighborhood, people of same general tribe you’d feel comfortable talking with
  • Outside circle – represents the “other,” the stranger, the felon, the homeless, the other political party, etc. The stranger represents distance.

The walls between our groupings seem so large, until we actually meet people who are strangers and let them confront our misconceptions and help tear down the walls that we think so neatly separate us. Many times the walls are much thinner and smaller than we think they are.

In general the walls are much higher metaphorically speaking to go from the outside to the inside. Jesus could have come to the insider and tried to give them an experience of being an outsider, but instead He chose to show up among the marginalized.  He brought the edge of society in to the spotlight. Which makes us ask the question, who have we marginalized. We are sent to the margins not to make a difference, but rather to be made different. A few closing thoughts to help us:

  • Wake up to your emotional clutter – we all have narratives going on all the time in our heads about who is in and who is out. It’s possible to be physically present but emotionally distant. Wake up and “start being in awe of what people have to carry instead of judging how they carry it (Greg Boyle).”
  • Locate yourself on the Circles of Affection – we don’t as insiders transform outsiders by our insiderness, but rather ask what we have to learn from them.
  • Take a step in either direction
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Topics: Grace, Kingdom of God, Poverty

Sermon Series: Do You See What I See?

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 2:8-18

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

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2 thoughts on “Circles of Affection

  1. Michael Snow says:

    ” In Jesus’ day the shepherds as a people group were one of the more despised, untrusted, unclean, & judged people in society. ” That is false. It is an anachronism forced on Jesus’ day from the centuries that followed the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion. 3rd Century A.D. source. See I. Howard Marshall, Luke, NIGTC.


  2. David says:

    Sword of the SpiritCHAPTER 6
    1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearinga threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
    10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against fleshb and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

    Many ministers of the Word say the Sword, of the Spirit is the Word of God. They do not quote the whole thought. Verse 17 does not end with a full stop. There is a semi-colon, which tells us the thought is continued. The parts of the armor are nouns, but the Sword is a verb! The Sword is the Word of God [Jesus] the intercessor praying always with all manner of prayer, for the saints. Once the saints enter into agreement with the intercessor these prayers become the Sword of the Spirit.
    Translators of the modern versions have changed the meaning of this verse by puting a period after God. Then all that Jesus has been doing falls on the believer! Jesus gets a break. A very honorable, democratic thing to do!

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