devozine

For Youth Workers Post

GRAY AREAS

Steven Lefebvre

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for November 9–15, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Have you known someone whose opinions or actions you totally disagreed with? I used to believe that part of my Christian witness was to correct or criticize their sinful behavior. But in my short adult life, I’ve learned that we cannot change other people. We can’t make them do or think anything they don’t want to do or think. So do we let them go? Don’t they know they are heading down a path of doom? In this session, we will explore what we do with gray areas such as these.” —Steven

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steven LefebvreMy name is Steven Lefebvre. I work with the youth and young adults at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Before my life of working at a church, I was the lead vocalist in a heavy metal band. These days, I spend my free time being an armchair film critic, reading comic books, and playing much quieter music (well, sort of). I’m also an amateur champion of darts and dodge ball. I’m a huge fan of going to baseball games in the summer and to college basketball games in the winter. I have a wife, two dogs, and a baby. Learn more by reading my blog.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

 

CHECKING IN

Debate is a creative, ridiculous, entertaining improvisation game. Prepare for the game by writing on separate slips of paper a bunch of relatively benign topics (“water fountains,” “shoes,” “basketball players”). Fold the slips of paper, and place them in a basket.

Ask group members to form two teams. Invite a representative from each team to come forward and together to draw one topic from the basket. Flip a coin. Whoever wins the coin toss will argue for the topic; whoever loses will argue against the topic. Then ask them to return to their teams; and encourage the team members to come up with the most ridiculous and of course, appropriate, argument for why they are for or against the topic. After a few minutes, let the argument begin.

Continue until all team members who wish to play have had a chance to debate.

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 30:1–27

What you need to understand going into this story is that clean and unclean were about more than proper hygiene. If people were found to be unclean, typically they were forced out of the community for a time and/or executed, depending on the severity of their crime. Being clean was what set the Jews apart. It was the way they practiced their covenant with God and demonstrated their sole allegiance to God. Cleansing before ritual meals and holidays was seen as an act of worship.

Put yourself in Hezekiah’s shoes. The Assyrian empire has decimated the northern kingdom, and many of your fellow Jews from the north are despondent and homeless. You call a special holiday to bring everyone back into the fold, to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Some yahoos from the neighboring villages come. They don’t participate in the proper cleansing rituals and sit down to eat. They break God’s law and technically ruin Passover for everyone else. They deliberately disobey the instructions laid out in the Torah, which is unfair for people like the Levites who do as they were told. Shouldn’t these people be punished for their sins?

Hezekiah, however, sees the situation differently. He’s glad that everyone is back together and at peace. What does he do with the mix of clean, unclean, togetherness, law, celebration? Hezekiah prays for pardon. Strangely enough, once everyone realizes God’s grace, they thank God; and the celebrating goes on for another week.

A few weeks ago during Sunday school, I asked the youth in my class to identify deep shameful truths about themselves, to write them on the sticky side of sticky notes, and to stick the notes on an icon of Jesus. A few days later when I was cleaning up the room, I read through the notes. I discovered that many of the teenagers were struggling. Some were addicted to pornography or struggling with their sexual identity; others were cruel to other people in order to fit in; some were cutting; others were dealing with eating disorders. The list goes on. To say the least, my youth group is entirely unclean. Since that morning, I have been praying for the youth, encouraging them, and repeating to them a message of God’s grace and compassion.

When it comes to the gray areas, those difficult places where people are living or situations in which people have differing opinions, nothing we can do will change them. We are utterly powerless. We can learn from the story in 2 Chronicles 30:1–27. When we ask God to change the hearts and minds of other people, God acts. When people learn of God’s grace, lives are changed and there is a great celebration.

Discuss:
       Whom have you disagreed with on an issue you cared about?
       Have you tried to change his or her mind? Did it work? Why? Why not?
       How do we go about changing the hearts and minds of other people?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to pray in the words of Hezekiah:
The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God” (2 Chronicles 30:18–19).

TAKING IT FURTHER

Make a list of three people you worry about because of the choices they are making. First, ask God to remove your expectations of them. Recognize that God is in charge. Then pray for them at least once a day during the next week. Pray that they may know God’s love. Pray that they may know compassion and great kindness. Pray that God will bless them. If you see them during the week, offer no criticism. Use only words of kindness and affirm them. Perhaps make a list so that you are better prepared.

—from devozine In the Habit (November/December 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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