We often tend to associate with people who share similar traits and common interests: people on our sports team, friends who like the same video games, the theater troupe, our fellow choir members, chess enthusiasts, etc. There is nothing wrong with this unless it leads to an “Us vs Them” mentality. We have to remember not to exclude people outside of our usual circle or even worse, treat them unfairly.
Have everyone get comfortable. Each youth should have pencil and paper.
- Think of some groups you belong to. Write them down.
- What do you like about belonging to these groups?
- Is there a downside or a negative to being a member of any of these groups?
After giving the youth some time to write their answers, do some sharing. Look for common themes.
First, a little history lesson. In the Old Testament, the prophets indicated over and over again that God is the God of all nations. But the Jewish people had a special relationship with Him. The people of Israel had been through a lot together and they were a pretty close-knit group. Even Jesus sometimes indicates that He was sent for his people, yet in his ministry he often reaches out and praises foreigners also.
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.Matthew 15:21-28
The Canaanite woman was a foreigner, not a member of the “chosen people”. Why does Jesus enter into this dialog with her? His answer seems very rude. But perhaps it was meant to teach the disciples – and us – something specific.
We all want to stick up for our own groups and make sure we get our fair share. We want our team or club to get as much funding and resources, if not more, than the other teams and clubs. If a choice has to be made, we want to be on the winning side.
But God wills that all people be treated fairly. He wills that everyone have what they need. Jesus has enough healing power for his own people and for foreigners like the Canaanite woman’s daughter. He wants everyone to be healed and saved.
- Can you think of any groups at your school or in society who seem to be treated unfairly?
- Would you want to be a member of these groups? Why or why not?
Sometimes we divide ourselves by race, or immigration status, or gender, or political party, or even religion (include other groups from the discussion) to the point where we are only concerned with taking care of ourselves.
But we are all God’s beloved children. He loves the people outside of our groups as much as He loves you and me. And His Kingdom is a place where all of us can live in peace and justice and love. Doing God’s will means working for a fair world for everyone.
- What actions can you take to develop less of an “Us vs Them” mentality?
- Are there any concrete actions you can take to make your school or society more fair for everyone?
Close with a prayer for unity.