Last week, our Bible study focused on Philippians 2:1-11 (text below if you want to do a quick read). We had a really fun discussion, so I thought I’d post the highlights.
I started off by reminding everyone why I personally find it important to study the Bible. It’s like an instruction manual for living (and no one likes the instructions until something is broken) and it’s like a love letter (written by God to draw us closer to him). If these two things are true, then the Bible is worth our attention…and surely we can set down our phones for an hour to talk about the Bible…
We read the passage out loud twice. In between readings, I encouraged the students to make note of the verses that were either confusing or encouraging.
After the second reading, each person shared their questions. We answered none of them–I didn’t and I didn’t let anyone else answer it. This was hard for almost everyone! From what I see, the people I know are too quick to find answers. Therefore, I feel it’s important to sit with the tension of “not knowing.” This also levels the playing field, some kids have “all the answers,” and the more they talk, the more it shuts down us regular folk. Here’s the exception: if the question was matter of historical context or unclear vocabulary, then I’ll answer it quickly. My goal is to get people thinking critically and carefully, not test their Bible background knowledge.
One person was surprised that the “my” in verse 2 referred to Paul and not God. This was so great! Why? Because an assumption was uncovered, the context shone through a personal preconception…and it led to another question: why should we follow what Paul wants? If its not God who wants this, maybe it’s not that important…
After 25 minutes of questions without answers, I decided it was time to direct the conversation a little bit more.
I said it was clear that Paul was giving us at least one command: Be unified (verse 2). He also told us how to reach unity with others: humility (verses 3-4). Here’s my question: why? Why should we be unified/humble?
I’m not a fan of doing something unless I know why I ought to be doing it. Of course, the Bible doesn’t always tell us why…but this passage does.
One student said, “to make Paul’s joy complete.” Great reading! I see that more as an OUTCOME or RESULT of being unified…and that’s kind of a reason, but keep digging.
Lot’s of answers were given…many of them beyond the scope of this passage. My response: YES! That’s true, but that’s not in this passage.
One student said, “we ought to be unified because Jesus did it first and we’re following his example” (verse 5). YES! That’s one of the reasons I saw too.
Another student said, because we’ll all be unified at the end of time (9-11), so we should get started now. YES! WONDERFUL! That’s in the passage, and it wasn’t one that I was thinking of… we are a learning community, we are all here to learn from one another. I may be the leader, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also a learner.
They never discovered the other reason that I see in the passage. Everything they said was a really a deeper understanding of what it means to be unified/humble, or about following Jesus’ example.
And I never gave it to them.
This drove the room into a frenzy. Even one of the adult leaders couldn’t believe that I’d wasn’t going to reveal my point of view. I pretended to be shocked, and said, “How can you expect me to make you dumber by telling you an answer that you can discover on your own! Read this passage once a day for the next five days and tell me what you come up with. After that, I’ll tell you what I see.”
It was a fun night, and made for some good Facebook discussion.
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like- minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death —even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.