Session 5: But I Don’t Even Know Them! OR But They Started It!

By the end of this session participants should be able to . . .

  • explain the Christian concept of “neighbor” as going beyond our acquaintances, friends and close friends to all fellow men
  • discuss how our relationships with people we know and don’t know affect them and us.
  • discuss why Jesus tells us to love our enemies
  • identify specific situations in their life when God was calling them to love their “neighbor”

Useful Texts

  • Matthew 25: 31-46
  • Luke 6:27-36
  • Luke 10:25-37
  • St. Athanasius from On the Incarnation, “God became man that through Him we might become God.”

Introduction - We’re all connected!

Prepare a visible chart of the “Circle of Friends Worksheet” large enough for participants to tack 12 cards up in the different circles. Give participants twelve 4x6 index cards. Tell them that you are going to revisit the idea of acquaintances, friends and close friends. Tell them, “Using 9 or 10 of the cards, write down on each 4x6 card the names or initials of people they consider acquaintances, friends, and close friends. On the remaining cards write down the names or initials of people you know but would not consider an acquaintance, friend, or close friend.” Using thumb tacks or tape, have participants place their cards on the appropriate part of the chart. The last cards should be put around the outside of the circle.

Discussion on Scriptural Texts

Read the parable of the Good Samaritan

Was the Samaritan a close friend? a friend? Was he even an acquaintance? [Actually, he was a complete stranger.] Who does Jesus say he was? [a neighbor.]

Using a couple different dictionaries have participants read and write down all the definitions of neighbor they can find. Review results. Ask, “Of these meanings, which would come closest to a Christian meaning?” [The second definition in Webster’s Dictionary reads “Fellow man.”]

Ask the following questions:

  • “So, of all the people on this chart, who is your neighbor?”[Everyone.]
  • “What about the people that other people put on that you don’t know?” [Them too.]

Tell participants to think of one time when someone was particularly loving or kind, or one time when someone was particularly cruel to them.

Ask and discuss the following questions:

  • “How did this make you feel? How do you think it affected the way you interacted with other people afterward?” [They were cruel and it made me very angry so I was short tempered with other people, OR they were kind to me so I was in a good mood when someone told me some bad news, etc..]

Say, “The Scriptures also say other things about the way we are supposed to interact with people.”

Break participants into groups of 2 or 3. Have each group read one of the remaining scriptural texts. Ask each group to determine the point of each text and come up with a current day example of how they could follow that saying.

After every group has gone ask, “Why do you think Jesus thinks its so important for us to treat everyone we meet as a neighbor?” [God created all of us. That means no one is more or less important than someone else. AND The way we treat one person has the potential to affect hundreds and even thousands of people.]

Special Note: You may want to schedule a special movie night and show “Its a Wonderful Life.” The movie is the perfect example of the objectives of this session.

Journal Reflection

Make a list of some of the “neighbors” that God has sent into your life (someone who has hurt you, a homeless person, a new kid in school, etc.). Pick one. How did you respond to them? How do you think Jesus wanted you to respond to them? Write down three things that you could have done to be a more “loving” neighbor. If you get stuck, go back to 1Cor 13:4-8a for ideas.

Session Conclusion

God does not tell us that we have to be best friends with everyone, but He does tell us that we are supposed to love them; even the people that we aren’t crazy about and those who don’t like us.

The Book of Genesis and the entire Tradition of the Church teaches that we are actually made in the image of God. St. John tells us ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). God loves us even though He knows that we often do truly love Him back. If we are made in His image, then it must be true also of the human person, of us. God wants us to love everyone in His creation, not because they will love us back, but because He loves us. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:7).