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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, August 8, 2021

August 2, 2021
  • 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
  • Psalm 130
  • Ephesians 4:25-5:2
  • John 6:35, 41-51

            It is the simplest words that cause the greatest struggles for my spiritual life. Paul's letter to the Ephesians is so simple it reads like notes to a squabbling kindergarten class rather than cosmopolitan adults. In fact, Paul is asking something quite extraordinary of us. I can think of nothing more difficult than putting bitterness and wrangling behind me and being tenderhearted and forgiving for the next 20 minutes, much less the end of my life. Anger, slander, and gossip can serve as self-defense in our competitive social world, where everyone is searching for the next tiny advantage. No one seems to be exempt from this. Even the greatest kingdoms of the world have been brought down by interpersonal fights. (Witness blessed King David's ongoing strife with his own family.)  

            Paul reminds us that we have been offered a way out of this exhausting human struggle by Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, and we are called to live alongside Him with forgiving love for our neighbors. Paul simply asks us to release our tense, controlling grip on other people, to give advice with kindness, and let go of others' weaknesses and sins. These are still very tall tasks. Living with a tender heart is exactly as risky as it sounds, and to offer even a little love to someone opens a path into the delicate grounds of the inner heart. Offering love is not the same grace as receiving love, and the pain of rejection is real.

            In the Gospel, Jesus makes clear that He hasn't left us empty-handed. He knows very well the struggles we face when we open up and forgive our fellow humans. In fact, He shows us on the cross what it means to bear the pain of rejection of love freely offered. Yet Jesus in His love also does not leave us without hope, without hope of our own forgiveness when we fall, or without the strength to try again. With the bread of the Eucharist, we are strengthened for the work of love. The bread He gives us isn't just fuel for the body but true nourishment for our discouraged spirits when we are inevitably hurt. In Jesus's resurrection, He gives us faith that even the pain of rejection, love will triumph -  there is hope for life after sorrow. - Betsy Noecker

  • Where have you been brought closer to God by loving relationships?
  • When has a loving relationship brings you pain, how might you be guided by Paul's advice to "be angry but do not sin" so that "your words may give grace"?
  • Jesus's offering of love comes at the cost of His life, but He returns with greater life than ever before. Have you experienced a painful sacrifice that brought a blessing in its aftermath?


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