Explore the Bible Teaching Plan How to Get Along with Others Mark 9:33-43,47-50 Lesson Outline 1. Show Others You Care (Mark 9:33-37) 2. See Others as Coworkers (Mark 9:38-41) 3. Sacrifice for Others’ Sake (Mark 9:42-43,47-48) 4. Season Others’ Lives (Mark 9:49-50) Biblical Truth We promote better relationships with others when we base our actions on unselfishness. Life Impact To help adults strive to get along with other people Before You Teach Where I grew up, one does not have to look very far to see the damage contentious relationships can cause. The infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud started from a romance sabotaged by the two families and simmered into a heated argument over a hog and property lines. The conflict escalated into bouts of bloodshed and revenge as over a dozen members of the warring families were murdered. That was bad enough, but the violence didn’t end there. Family members were arrested and executed for their crimes. And while the folklore still focuses on the spectacle of a clannish mountain people killing each other in the hills, their conflict was not settled in a vacuum or confined to the two families. Several bounty hunters also fell as victims of the clash, disappearing as they tried to bring killers to justice. Although my step-grandfather descended from the Hatfields, it is not this family that I emulate when it comes to winning friends and influencing others. I look instead to the legacy of another who grafted me into His family. Jesus left an example of how to get along with others, and it from Him I learn to step around the pitfalls of strained relations. We don’t see many examples of discord between the disciples because Jesus nipped any seeds of conflict as they threatened to bud. Yet the potential for conflict existed then, as it does for any relationship at any stage of life. As you prepare to teach this lesson, evaluate your own relationships for areas of conflict. Take steps to restore relationships. And consider how to encourage your learners to do the same. Icebreaker To introduce the lesson theme, discuss the topic of sports rivalries with learners. Invite them to name some of the biggest high school, collegiate, and professional sports rivalries in your area. Ask: What is the atmosphere like when these two teams meet? How does the rivalry affect the conduct of fans? Do fans of the opposing teams treat each other with respect or with contempt? Why is that? Introduction God is concerned about relationships. He created us and loves us. Even when we sinned, God acted through Jesus Christ to reconcile us to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18). He also wants us to learn to get along with others and live in peace (1 Thess. 5:13b). This takes conscious effort and diligence on the part of believers. Because of our sinful nature, we are prone to let envy and selfish ambition guide our interaction with others (Jas. 3:14). Jesus showed us a better way, as we treat others with honor and respect, putting them first. Ask: Without naming names, what character qualities or attitudes have you observed in relationships where you simply could not get along with someone else? What character qualities or attitudes have you observed in those people who seem to be able to get along with just about anybody? As you begin your class time, pray that learners would be encouraged by the lesson Scriptures to demonstrate love and service to others, as they follow the example of Jesus. Show Others You Care Mark 9:33-37 Explanation Just prior to the events recorded in these verses, the disciples had received two clear messages about Jesus’ identity and plans. Peter, James, and John had witnessed the transfiguration when Jesus, changed in glory, spoke with Moses and Elijah. Luke tells us they discussed Jesus’ coming death (Luke 9:31). Then, on the way back to Capernaum, Jesus told His disciples for the second time that He would soon be betrayed and killed, but would rise again (Mark 8:30; 9:31). Against this backdrop, the disciples’ argument about which of them was the greatest seems especially uncaring. Discussion Ask one of the class members to read Mark 9:33-37. These verses remind us that the disciples were human and struggled as we do. How did Jesus characterize the discussion He overheard between them? What was the source of contention between the disciples? What do you suppose really provoked this argument? How does “one-upmanship” hinder healthy relationships? What do you think the disciples thought or felt when Jesus asked them about their conversation? How does the choice to be last and to serve others make us first? If we serve in order to be first, are we still motivated by pride? Explain. How did Jesus demonstrate servant leadership? Why did He use a child as an example? What point did He make by referring to the child? Who are the people you encounter regularly whom the world might consider lowly? How does Jesus want us to “welcome” them? What actions can we take to show our care for them? Which of these “children” have you struggled to welcome for Jesus? young people who come to church dressed casually mothers with whiny or inattentive children worshipers who like a different style of music than I do fellow believers with political views different from mine others: Application Followers of Jesus should not be concerned with their own position or recognition. Our first concern should be to exalt Jesus and to serve one another, including those who are humble and lowly. We honor God when we extend hospitality to fellow believers. Do your actions lead others to conclude that you care about them and their needs? What could you do to show that you care for others and not merely for yourself? Who among your Christian brothers and sisters do you tend to overlook? How will you treat this person differently so he or she feels welcome? See Others as Coworkers Mark 9:38-41 Explanation A man who was not one of the Twelve was doing kingdom work in the name of Jesus, so John and the others tried to stop him. The disciples misunderstood their relationship with Jesus, thinking it was exclusive. This led to an intolerance of others. The disciples failed to consider that Jesus could use any person He chose to accomplish His purposes. Discussion Invite a volunteer to read verses 38-41. What do you suppose was behind John’s announcement that they had tried to stop others who were driving out demons in Jesus’ name? Why do we often assume people who are not part of our group are in competition with us? If our church took this passage to heart, how would that change our relationships with other churches in the community, both within our own denomination and outside of it? What does Jesus’ response show us about the kingdom of God? What implications do His instructions have for maintaining positive relationships? How does jealousy harm relationships within the body of Christ? What are the benefits of viewing members of another Christian church as co-laborers rather than competitors? What are some potential drawbacks? In what ways have you cooperated with other believers located near you? What future ministries might you perform that encourage service alongside people from other churches? Application The goal of our service is not to enlarge the membership of our group, but to lead others to place their faith in Jesus. Christ-honoring believers in other churches are our co- laborers, not our competitors. God has plenty of ministry opportunities for every Christian to be involved in kingdom work. What could you do to express your joy when God works through churches or believers in your community other than your own church and members? What would it look like if, in your interaction with other Christians, you focused on your common beliefs rather than on differences in interpretation and practice? Sacrifice for Others’ Sake Mark 9:42-43,47-48 Explanation The Greek word translated by the phrase “cause the downfall” in verses 42 and 47 is the root of our English word “scandalize.” Often translated “to offend,” it can mean to cause someone to fall or stumble, including a fall into sin. Discussion Get one of the learners to read verses 42-43, and verses 47-48. Who were the little ones Jesus was concerned about? What are some ways our actions could become stumbling blocks that trip up others? Do we not have a right to practice these things in Christian liberty? Explain. In verse 42, Jesus warned against causing the downfall of the little ones. Starting in verse 43, He cautioned against things that cause our own downfall. How would you characterize Jesus’ advice in this passage? Giving up a body part to avoid falling into sin seems drastic. Do you think God really expects us to take such radical action if that’s what is required? What might be some practical, non-literal ways to follow Jesus’ advice? What might you need to sacrifice to keep others—or yourself—out of trouble? What have you sacrificed in order to be a positive influence for Christ to other people? How could a person’s hand or eye cause him or her to suffer in hell? How do we explain these verses in light of our beliefs that we are saved by faith and God forgives our sins? How does continuing in sin affect others in your life? Application We are responsible for how our choices affect others spiritually. If our words or actions could cause others to doubt God or to sin, we must eliminate those offensive ways. If we keep falling into the same sin patterns, we must do whatever it takes to change our ways. Are you holding on to something in your life that negatively affects the spiritual growth of others? What would it take for you to be willing to give it up? What have you allowed to remain in your life that repeatedly trips you up and leads you into habitual sin? Who will you tell? What will you do to overcome this sin? Season Others’ Lives Mark 9:49-50 Explanation These are difficult verses to understand, and not all Bible scholars agree on their meaning. Salting with fire suggests judgment, as when Ezekiel was commanded to scatter hot coals over the city (Ezek. 10:2). Fire also symbolizes purification (Isa. 6:6-7; Mal. 3:2-3). In Bible times, salt was employed both as a preservative and as a seasoning. In the Old Testament, the grain offering was salted (Lev. 2:13), not to preserve it (for it was soon burned), but to make it savory for the Lord. As believers, our speech is to be gracious, seasoned as with salt (Col. 4:6). Discussion Invite one of the class members to read verses 49-50. How do these verses relate to the previous verses in the lesson? What items other than salt and fire could be used to illustrate Jesus’ point here? How can we fulfill our role as salt and fire? Using salt as a figure of speech, Jesus taught the principle of being a positive influence by calling for His disciples to add to the quality of others’ lives. Christians have the ability to season the lives of others. What is the byproduct of salty saints, according to verse 50? What does salt do? How can we apply those properties to the relationships we have with believers and unbelievers? How can people lose their “saltiness”? What does it mean to have salt “among yourselves” (v. 50)? As Christians, what can we do to add flavor to our society? How can we avoid being bland and unappetizing? With which moral issues do your friends struggle? How does your way of living speak in a positive way to those issues? Application The knowledge that everyone will face judgment should motivate us both to purify our behavior and to witness to others about the salvation God offers through Jesus Christ. Our lives should be refreshingly different from those of unbelievers, full of grace and peace. What changes do you need to make that would make your life stand out as refreshing and attractive to unbelievers? How will you arrange to spend time in their presence so you can introduce them to your Savior? What could you say or do that would lead to greater peace with a fellow believer? Conclusion For followers of Jesus, greatness is a measure of how much we care about others. Since God also works through other believers and their churches, we are to view them as coworkers, not as competitors. We are to refrain from leading others astray, even to the point of sacrificing something important to us for their sakes. We are to work toward improving the moral atmosphere of the world and toward increasing our efforts to live peaceably with others. Ask: Which principle in this lesson do you find to be the most difficult? Why? Is following it possible? How can we do that? How can you begin using what we have learned in this lesson about promoting better relationships among the people you encounter daily? Close in prayer, thanking God for the grace He gives. Ask Him to help each learner serve the Lord and put others first. Pray for a spirit of cooperation and peace among believers. Ask for God’s help as learners seek to live before the world as examples of the conduct and character of Christ. Implementation Each time you reach for the salt shaker, ask yourself how well you are adding a pleasing flavor to those around you as you live out the love of Jesus.