John 1:46 (NKJV)
“And Nathanael said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Have you ever walked into a building or just stumbled into an area and was made to feel unwelcome for no other reason than you’re not from there? Maybe a large group turned and just stared at you with a look of contempt? How about someone making a derogatory or profane comment when you walk by?
When confronted with situations like these it can cause any number of negative reactions. Far too often there is no rational reason for any of this to occur, but people judge others every day and many times unfairly. Ask yourself if you have ever done this. That woman with the colored hair who dresses differently, the guy from another part of town who has no business being on your street, or the worker who is just trying to do their job but you look at in disgust.
Over the years I have had many interesting conversations with the men where I work and sometimes they can take a curious twist. There always seems to be that ever present social cause or the latest incident that people want to talk about or rally around in the world. One day the out of the blue comment was, “I think that there is more cultural bias these days and it seems that more and more we are being judged by where we come from or what we believe.”
I had to agree with what was being said and acknowledge that there were times I observed much of what he was talking about. I have been the small town boy getting the angry looks for being in the wrong part of the city, the so-called stupid American in a foreign country, and that authority figure who gets lumped in with every one that ever abused their power. I’m sure if we sat down as a group we could fill several pages of examples of what we have gone through, seen, or even participated in.
Lately there seems to be an upswing in how much we are being bombarded in the news and social media, but this is far from new. We can go back years, centuries, and even millennium to find samples of the same things happening at different times throughout history. It doesn’t matter if its American, World, or even Ancient History, we can easily find the inhumanity we wreak upon ourselves. But the larger question is, how do we react and counteract this?
The bible, especially the life of Jesus, are often cited as the guidelines for confronting all those antagonists and naysayers. Many of us could easily cite lessons that are always pointed out like David not fighting Saul when he came to kill him in 1 Samuel 24, but showed him respect. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22 are, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But it is too easy to just bring up all the better known stories and parables that we are familiar with than to draw out the confrontation and the angry crowds.
The opening scripture is just one example of the reaction Jesus sometimes encountered. When Philip told Nathanael that he had found Him of who the prophets wrote, Nathanael’s response was not one of excitement, but questioning where Jesus was from. How can such an important person be from the small obscure village of Nazareth? Instead of confrontation, Jesus started with a hearty greeting.
What is ironic about this interaction is that Jesus did not receive a warm welcome when He returned to Nazareth either. In Luke 4:22 we find, “So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, Is this not Joseph’s son?” Even though Jesus spoke eloquently his family’s status comes into question and later he is forced out of town by an angry crowd, but He did not retaliate and walked away.
The Gospels are filled with the examples that Jesus set for us where ever He went. The simple encounter at a well brought the response from the Samaritan woman in John 4:9, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” This comment makes more sense if you knew that Jews and Samaritans were at odds with each other. But Jesus did not respond with sarcasm, instead he spoke with God’s message.
When the crowd brought an adulterous woman to be stoned and they demanded an answer from Jesus, He did not reply in anger but with calm words. Even when surrounded by soldiers in the garden Jesus stopped Peter from lashing out with violence and went peacefully with them only to be confronted by angry mobs that ridiculed him and called for his crucifixion. These lessons that Jesus taught were personified by many of the early Christians after his crucifixion. Peter, Paul, and many of the early disciples and followers of Christ were persecuted, ridiculed, and some cases killed for their beliefs yet even in their darkest hour they still remained strong in faith.
If we look at our history over the last several decades we can find people of faith confronting the angry opposition not with hate and violence, but with a message of peace and love; and would have been like asking, what good can come from Atlanta, Skopje, Mvezo, or a dairy farm in Charlotte? The answer is simple, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, and the recently passed Billy Graham.
The past few decades have also seen people and entire cultures in this country and around the world persecuted and killed because of who they were thought to be or where they were from. So the question is, do we wait for another prominent figure to lead us with a message of mutual respect and love or do we do our part where ever we are? I know I am choosing to stand in faith with my brothers and sisters to do my part, please enjoy “Through the Eyes of My Love.”
THROUGH THE EYES OF MY LOVE
I walked into the room and everybody just turned to stare,
The looks upon their faces were almost too much to bear.
All my thoughts begin by asking what is it that I have done?
Their eyes say I don’t want you here, why is it that you’ve come?
I have no response fore there is no reason for them to feel this way,
Even if I offered an answer they would not hear what I had to say.
I run off to find a mirror so I can see what makes me different,
Is it my skin, my clothes, what I believe, but nothing is significant.
Lord I am being treated like such an outcast when I am just a stranger,
I feel so threatened by their actions, please protect me from any danger.
My child there are times when others are acting out of fear or pride,
Often it’s only their uncontrolled emotions welling up from deep inside.
You must not respond in anger or hang your head in disgrace,
Just feel My strength surround you in a protective embrace.
You are all My children made in My image, this you should not forget,
As brothers and sisters you must treat each other with more tolerant respect.
By coming to Me in prayer and reading My word direction can be sought,
You know to approach with kindness then project the love that I’ve taught.
If you come together in faith you will receive My blessings from above,
Soon all differences will fall away to see Through the Eyes of My Love.