Study Guide: The Relational Way

Sunday November 4, 2007 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

The Revolting Beauty series continues as we are brought face to face with the very heart of God and the center of the Kingdom: namely, Jesus' teaching on self-sacrificial love. In this sermon we learn about the four types of love, and the importance of living in such a way that God's agape-love flows to and through us. Finally, Greg helps us consider some of the areas in our culture that we will naturally “revolt” against if we are walking in the “relational way” of God's self-sacrificial love.

Extended Summary:

In our passage this week, we are told about one of the many times during Jesus’ ministry when he was publicly “tested” by a Jewish religious leader. In Jesus’ day, this was a common event. Religious leaders would try to publicly embarrass their opponents by asking them a “trick question” in front of a crowd of people. In this instance, an “expert” in the Jewish law asks Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Whatever Jesus would have answered, the other man would have tried to give a better answer. Knowing this, Jesus side-steps the question and turns it back on the man himself! The man responds by quoting two passages from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18), both of which focus on love. The first calls us to love God with all of our being, while the second calls us to love others as we love our self. Jesus ends the conversation by telling the man that he has answered correctly – “Do this and you will live.”

In his sermon, Greg reminds us that the word “love” in our culture is often misused and misunderstood. It is helpful to remember that the Greek language in which the New Testament was written has four different words for “love”: (1) “Eros” refers to romantic love; (2) “Philios” refers to friendship love; (3) “Storge” refers to a feeling of affection toward someone or something; and finally (4) “Agape” refers to self-sacrificial, other-oriented love. “Agape” is the word used in this passage in Luke 10. It is not based on how one “feels.” Rather, it is based on a choice to put the other person and what is best for them ahead of our self. That is why, in another passage, Jesus can tell us to show agape-love even to our enemies (Matthew 5:44). No matter how we “feel” about someone, we can still “choose” to bless and serve them. Similarly, no matter how we “feel” about God on any given day, we can still “choose” to worship and serve him with all of our being.

In the sermon, Greg goes on to remind us that the only way that we can live in agape-love toward God and others is if we first recognize and receive God’s love for us. God’s radical, self-sacrificial love for each of us is powerfully expressed by Jesus’ death on the cross. By this ultimate act of love, God reveals to us just how valuable and precious we are to him. As we receive God’s love, we are enabled to truly love our self, because now we are allowing God to define our value and worth. As God’s love fills and empowers us, we are called to respond to God and others with the same self-sacrificial love. This is the plan of God for the church – that we would receive and then actively reflect the love of the triune God (John 17:20-23). Agape-love is the heart of God and the center of the Kingdom (I Corinthians 13:1-13; Ephesians 5:1-2; Galatians 5:6; etc.)!

Finally, as we walk in the “relational way” of agape-love, we will naturally “revolt” against everything in this world that is “anti-love.” As Kingdom people who walk in agape-love, we are called to revolt against “Individualism” (defining ourselves over and against God and others), “Materialism” (being “addicted to things”), “Religiosity” (“getting life” from our own self-righteousness), “Racism” (“getting life” from our ethnic identity), “Non-Covenantal Sex” (“using” others for sexual pleasure, and with no commitment to them), and “Nationalism” (“getting life” from where we happened to be born). As children of God, we are to find all of our “life” and identity in Jesus alone, which sets us free from these lies of our culture. As Kingdom people, we are to choose the “relational way” of agape-love!

Reflection Questions:

  1. Are you getting all of your life, worth, significance, and identity from God’s love alone?
  2. Are you actively striving to live a life-style of agape-love for God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and body? None of us have achieved perfection in “loving God” yet. What are some areas of your life that are not yet fully surrendered to God and his Kingdom? What would it look like for you to surrender these areas to God?
  3. Do you love yourself as someone who is perfectly loved by God? In other words, do you agree with God that you are worth loving? All of us have been given messages in life about our lack of value and worth. What negative messages about yourself will you have to confront and resist in order to really believe what God says about you?
  4. Are you self-sacrificially loving others in your life as God loves them? Which relationships in your life currently pose the greatest difficulty in this area? What would it look like for you to demonstrate self-sacrificial love in these difficult relationships?