We don’t need to cross the ocean to love people extravagantly, we just need to cross the street. — BoB Goff
Have you ever heard of the musical Wicked? It was a big deal when it premiered in 2003, winning all the awards there were to win and making its stars household names. Why was it so popular? Well, aside from amazing songs and great performances, Wicked took the story of the Wizard of Oz and did something unexpected.
In Wicked, the familiar story of Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man is retold from the perspective of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. In this telling, we learn about Elphaba’s sad backstory, the rivalry with her sister (Glinda the Good Witch), and how she might not be the one-dimensional villain we always thought she was. This musical presents us with an Elphaba who is a tragic figure and whom, we discover, is more misunderstood than mean. It also shows us that when you learn someone’s story, it can totally change how you see that person.
In our culture these days, it’s tempting to sift everybody we meet into two categories: “good guys” and “bad guys.” It is as if life is one of those old vaudeville melodramas where we cheer for the hero and hiss at the villain. But that’s not real life, is it? Real life is way more interesting than that. Everybody we know is a fully formed, complex, and interesting creation. Nobody in our orbit is all good or all bad. Learning people’s stories helps us see this. It breaks down our judgments and preconceived notions. It frees us from viewing others as cardboard cutouts but instead as the actual, real, God-created people they are. And, like Elphaba, learning someone’s story might help us see them in a different light.
When you get caught up in a life of following Jesus, the old categories of “good guys” and “bad guys” stop working for you.
You realize that not only does everybody have a story, but also that God wants us to love them too: no matter what. Yes, this can be kind of scary, but that’s why we learn people’s stories. It makes the creepy people God wants us to love a lot less scary and frees us to actually reach out to them right where they are.
All this is what we’re talking about this week in our first session of Everybody, Always. We’re going to share some stories, learn to reach out to our neighbors, and figure out how to actually love everybody God has already put in our lives… always.
Welcome to the first session of Everybody, Always. If you or any of your fellow group members do not know one another, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to get things started, discuss the following questions:
- If you could describe your expectations for this study in one word, what would that word be?
- Why did you pick the word you did?
Hearing the Word
Read aloud in the group the following passage from Luke 10:25–37:
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” He replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
At the end of this parable, Jesus asks the teacher of the law which of the three people who passed the half-dead man on the road was a “neighbor” to him (see verse 36). Why does Jesus ask this question? Why do you think the expert in the law answers the way he does?
Have you ever seen someone give away extravagant love to a person who was their enemy? If so, when was it and what did it look like?
Watching the Video
Play the video segment for session one. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.
Let the people in your life know that they are not only invited but also welcome.
You do business with buyers, but you do life with neighbors.
Loving your neighbors is woven into your DNA and your faith.
God’s message to you is that you don’t have to be afraid anymore.
God gives you a peek at what he is doing in the world through the people around you.
Part of finding your joy in life is helping others find their joy.
God wants you to love everyone, but what you need to do is start across the street.
What’s a next big step for you? Who are you going to get to know? What is your next courageous move?
Discussing the Teaching
Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture.
- In the video, Bob talks about how he was looking for a neighbor rather than just a buyer for his house because you “do life” with a neighbor. What does it mean to “do life” with someone? What’s an example of this in your life?
- Do you feel as if you truly “know” your neighbors or just “know about” them? Explain.
- When you think about your neighbors, what’s the hardest (or scariest) part of considering how to connect with them in new ways?
- Bob states that we find our joy by “helping other people find theirs.” What do you think this means? How have you experienced joy through helping others?
- Is there a difference between joy and happiness? If so, how would you define it?
- People don’t grow where they’re informed — they grow where they’re accepted. Where does your small group or church do this well? Where could you all better grow?
Doing the Word
For this activity, each participant will need a copy of the grid on the following page and a pen or pencil.
During this week’s teaching, Bob suggests that loving your neighbor is something that can start with the people God has put around you in your world. It doesn’t require going across the ocean — just across the street.
With this in mind, look at the grid below. This grid represents your neighborhood. The center square with the word “YOU” in it stands for where you live. The empty squares around it represent where your neighbors live.
Take a moment to visualize your neighborhood. Now, see how many of those empty squares you can fill with the actual names of the people who live there. Just do your best. If you live next to the ocean or in the middle of nowhere, just use your office or some other public space where you spend time as your starting place.
It’s okay. Just fill in as many names as you can.
Look at your grid once it’s filled in. What do you notice? Are there any trends? Who do you know well? Who do you not know at all?
Next, circle the neighbor on your grid whom you know the least and with whom you want to make a better connection this week. It might be someone you know a little, and you can invite that person to coffee to get to know better. Or it could be a person you don’t know at all, and your goal for this week is just to learn his or her name. Whatever it is, take a second, say a prayer, and make your plan.
When you’re done, share with the group your plan for connecting with a neighbor this week. If anyone in the group is stumped, offer some suggestions. And remember, the goal here is not to convert anyone, or witness, or anything like that. The goal is just to connect… because that’s where it all starts.
Close the meeting by praying for the specific person you are going to try to meet this week. Pray especially that God would give you the courage to follow through!
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