Monday, 10 August 2015

Rejection by family - Luke 4.16

Millions of people work hard today to hold their family together and to care for those who are vulnerable and elderly. They want to know (and become known) to the next generation.

But sadly, many feel that stronger forces are actively breaking their families apart, in an age of individualism. Some elderly are never visited by their children. Some children feel they are told at eighteen ”Now you are on your own - it is your life - use your own resources to get through it successfully and do not expect any support from us, or anyone”. Today, the concept of 'family' is weaker than one might assume. There is also a trend among some secular post modern psychologists to unilaterally encourage vulnerable people to jettison family bonds which could be damaging them, (without giving the other party an explanation).  I prefer the notion of 'family therapy'.

Postmodern researchers are now claiming that most people are 'happiest' with friends and spouses, rather than with their blood relatives. As with much scientific research today, this idea completely despises our deepest moral code and our duty to those with whom we share genes and bloodlines. Connecting with and caring for family is fundamental to our humanity - as the New Testament points out. It says that pagans care for their own relatives, so how much more should those who honour God?

Unless one cares nothing for the past (which some do not, today) families are part of our earthly identity, or at least one would think so. However, divorce, religion, politics, or wealth/success can surprisingly easily tear apart family bonds. One thinks with sadness of embittered divorces where one parent actively for whatever reason, tries to put a child off seeing their former spouse or partner. “Honour thy father and mother” and “Do not trouble/exasperate your children” are key commands in the Bible. To ignore them is to commit sins.

Someone becoming a faithful follower of Jesus can create violent feelings in the hearts of relatives who then become their main persecutors. Those left behind ask “Who is this person, arrogantly pretending to be holier than we who had the virtue to bring them up properly and teach him or her our perfectly acceptable values? We don’t want his or her influence among us, undermining our own world view, threatening us and our other younger relatives”. A family can socially ‘kill’ someone who offends it, by socially marginalising them. If this happens to you, the comfort is that much worse happened to Jesus in Nazareth.

                                                           "Nazareth, by Fadil Saba 1" (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons) 

Jesus probably walked forty miles to Nazareth, after moving to Capernaum where, following His Baptism, "power" has been coming out of Him to heal people who touched Him. He has been invited back to the synagogue in Nazareth to teach, among his friends and family whom He had blessed with good deeds all His life. He read the day's set passage from Isaiah about the social effects of the Kingdom of God, declaring good news to the poor, release for captives, giving sight to the blind and then announced: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. Wow! What a privilege to be there - one might think. Instead, His hearers are incensed, driven mad by rage.

“Who does he think he is?” they ask themselves. “He is just one of us - we taught and nurtured him but now he is asserting himself over us. He is putting himself on a pedestal, as the One for whom the world has been waiting, the Prince among people - but he is just the penniless son of a humble worker not better than we are, like this brothers and sisters are! What blasphemy! We must silence him: it is our duty to the world to stop such lies getting out, especially from among the practical, sensible people of Nazareth”.

Their perceived role of guardians of pragmatism derives from their imperfect perception of God - from a damaged inner vision created by pride and self-righteousness. Able to perceive their thoughts, Jesus feels the waves of anger coming at Him. How it must have hurt even the Man of Sorrows! In reply, He utters a shocking condemnation with this meaning:

“You may want me to prove in my own home town my credentials of healing - but I cannot - due to your disbelief, your dishonouring of me and your unrepentant hearts. Instead, I will do miraculous deeds but in other places and even other countries” (see Luke 4.16 onwards).

As a result, lawlessly, they drag him outside - to execute him for blasphemy. His relatives and friends become a mob lynching an innocent man who they think they know. The ancient Biblical punishment for blasphemy was to push someone off a high place - and Nazareth apparently had some outcrop on which it stood. Murdering one’s relative sounds outrageous, but many heinous crimes are committed in and by families and relatives, even today. Social ostracism is a form of murder, too. Somehow, Jesus escapes them. Only his mother and brother would eventually follow Him.

Later, Jesus says “No prophet is accepted in his home town”. This refers to Jeremiah who came from Ananoth, near Jerusalem, where his family and friends actively tried to plot his death (Jeremiah 1.1 and 11.18-23) to stop him preaching divine judgment (which made them feel uncomfortable). Today, those turning to the light of Christianity may pay a high price in terms of family relationships.

Do they lose themselves, along with their family? No: they join the huge ‘family’ of the church. Losing our identity comes from worshipping anything except God - such as money, ideologies, sex, and so on. Instead, paradoxically people find their true self which runs even deeper than blood and kinship - through the rejected and crucified Christ.

Interesting links
The Nazareth Village
The Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum (hiking or biking)

No comments:

Post a Comment