Study Guide: Circles of Affection

Sunday December 17, 2017 | David Morrow

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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:

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:

Reflection Questions:

  1. Were there any sections of scripture discussed that need more clarification? What stood out? What parts did you not understand or saw in a new light based on the message?
  2. Did you relate more as an outsider looking in or an insider looking out?
  3. Where are my circles of affection the strongest determining who is in and out?
  4. Is there a people group that I have a hard time seeing as the other? Who is hardest to move toward in my life?
  5. What practical first steps could you take to take to start collapsing the walls that create your circles of affection? Who could you invite in on that process to help you discern where the Spirit is leading you?