Study Guide: Virtuous Ambiguity

Sunday May 8, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

God can be ambiguous at times. We seek clarity during those times; however, it may not be readily given to us. In this sermon, Greg talks about how to respond to God’s ambiguity by going up to God, out to others, and in for fellowship.

Extended Summary:

In the story of the road to Emmaus, Jesus is a little ambiguous to his two disciples. His disciples had just left Jerusalem, and they were distraught about the events that had happened. They knew Jesus had died and that his body was missing. However, when Jesus appeared and started walking with them, he kept his identity hidden. It was until they broke bread with Jesus that they understood who he was. And then he vanished!

Ambiguity is defined as something that is doubtful or uncertain, or capable of being understood in two or more possible ways. God uses ambiguity throughout history. Whenever there is ambiguity in the Bible, it is usually used by God to draw his people closer. Whenever his people can’t figure something out, God wants them to seek out God. He doesn’t usually hand them the answer, but rather brings them to a journey of discovering God.

There are several things that this passage in Luke tells us about ambiguity and how to respond to it. The first is that whether the ambiguity was caused by God or by themselves, the disciples were asked to reach up and seek out God. The second is that we find clarity by reaching out to others in service. The final lesson we see in this passage is to reach inwards and have fellowship.

The ambiguity in this passage is asking the disciples to reach up and seek God. Some of the ambiguity was the disciple’s faults, as they didn’t understand Jesus’ teachings. They thought that Jesus would redeem Israel, but they didn’t understand that would be done through his life, death, and resurrection. They also didn’t understand how Jesus’ body had disappeared, even though the women had told them what the angels said. This was due to their own stereotype about women not being reliable witnesses. However, some of the ambiguity was caused by Jesus not revealing who he was. All of the ambiguity was calling for the disciples to reach up and seek out God. God and Jesus wanted them to seek out the truth of the situation, instead of handing them the answers. Once the disciple’s saw Jesus breaking the bread, then they understood who he was and went back to Jerusalem.

We find clarity by reaching out and serving others. In this passage, the disciples invited Jesus to come eat with them. They understood that evening was coming on, and it would be unwise to let the traveler with them continue on. They decided to serve him by inviting him in to dine with them and stay the night. By inviting in and serving Jesus, they created an opportunity to see God revealed and become less ambiguous. We have that same opportunity today. In Matthew 25, Jesus states that his followers will be judged on whether they served the hungry, thirsty, and outcast people. When we serve others in our world, the ambiguous God reveals himself to us, and we begin to see more clearly how Jesus loved this world and what he would have us do in this world.

Finally, we respond to ambiguity by reaching in and inviting fellowship into our lives. The disciples invited Jesus into their home to eat with them and stay the night. In so doing, they invited in the opportunity for Jesus to reveal himself. If they had not invited Jesus in, they would have never broken bread with him and recognized Jesus. We also have the opportunity to invite others into our lives in order to gain clarity. Fellowship is inviting a few people into your life in order to help each grow and serve others. God uses others to grant clarity in ambiguous situations. When we gather together with others and have fellowship, whether it’s a bible study or a meal, we invite others to help reduce the ambiguity of how God is working in this world. We gain clarity from each other through God. By God’s design, spiritual growth comes through community with other followers of Jesus.

There is a lot of ambiguity in this world, whether it’s by divine design or human failure to understand and comprehend. We should react to this ambiguity by reaching up to God, out to others, and inwards in fellowship. In this way, we can gain clarity for the ambiguity in life.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. What do you think causes ambiguity in this world? Does ambiguity have a purpose?
  3. Do you think Greg’s suggestions on how to react to ambiguity in this world are helpful? In what ways?
  4. What are some of the ambiguous situations in your life in which you need clarity?
  5. In what ways can you and others come together and help each other to reach up, out, and in? How can you help each other gain clarity through fellowship?