"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jesus: Confronting Racism in His Hometown

Have you ever had the kind of relationship where things were going really well as far as you could tell? Outwardly things were great. You were praised for your intelligence and tolerance. You were well-liked.  You were thought of as amazingly sweet and witty and merciful.

So you didn't want to rock the boat by bringing up anything negative.  Like the fact your friend generalized all Muslims as women-hating terrorists or referred to Christians as unclean or Jews as apes. Maybe she used offensive words to describe black people or the Mexican family living down the street.

You wanted to bask in the glow of knowing you were charming.

It's not your place to confront people and challenge them on their bad traits after all.  How intolerant would that be?

Luke tells this story about Jesus.

 14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
   18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 

So far, so good.  Jesus returned to his hometown, spoke in the synagogue and amazed his people.  Why did he not sit there, bask in their affirming words and share a smile with his mother who was probably beaming with pride at her son?

He'd had his say. He'd gotten their attention. He'd made himself known. Was there any need to continue? To challenge them..with this...?

 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
   24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. 

My gracious, what just happened?! 

Why did the hometown crowd go from being amazed by Jesus' gracious words to wanting to throw him off the cliff?  What was so offensive about bringing up the widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian?

Was Jesus confronting racism?  If so, why was this important? What possible good could have come out of his deliberate stirring up this Nazarene crowd?

What do you think?


Wafa said...

It's not your place to confront people and challenge them on their bad traits after all. How intolerant would that be?

Most time i feel this way exactly for various reasons, sometimes because i am afraid to be an outcast,sometimes because the confrontation is not going to be good with these people. cuz you have talked over and over again and they never listened, and sometimes because it's only me who is fighting and to fight a belief, an idea people have about other people then it's not easy to make them change their minds.

kinzi said...

Hi Susanne! Thanks for visiting my blog...fun to see you've lived in the 'hood!

Wafa', how grateful I am for people who loved me enough to confront me with my bad traits. Jesus used them to expose a depravity He wanted cleansed. I am better off, and so is my sphere of influence.

Susanne said...

Wafa', I agree that those are usually the reasons I also have for NOT saying anything! Thankfully there are people (like Kinzi) who are glad for constructive criticism because they recognize they have things that need improving and are grateful for people willing to point them out.

Sadly, most folks don't seem to be this way and it backfires. So why speak up? I don't want to be thrown off a cliff! :)

Thanks for your feedback!

Susanne said...

Kinzi, nice to see you! I recently discovered a blog and saw your comments throughout it and loved them! So I had to visit your blog which I hope to keep better tabs on from now on. :)

Well, I didn't live in the 'hood except for 12 days. I'd love to go back and live there for a while, but it doesn't look as if that is likely especially now. And yes that makes me sad to think about. I LOVED my visit to Syria..and the people, ah...they were great! :)

Thanks for your thoughts on the post!

Suroor said...

I will be thinking about this...