Tag Archives: judgmentalism

God’s People, part 191: Hometown

Read Mark 6:1-5

“When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff…” (Luke 4:28-29, NLT).

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Hometown_StorefrontPart 191: Hometown. There is something special about the town in which one grows up in. For me, I grew up in a fairly small town in Sussex County in the northwestern part of New Jersey. During the time I was in seventh and eight grade, my hometown had population of around 4,977. The town is geographically small, being nearly 4.6 square miles.

It was a sidewalk community meaning that one could walk from place to place on sidewalks and as I kid I used to walk from place to place with my friends. We’d hang out at the park, walk to the library, or go bowling at the Bowling Alley. Sometimes, we’d pop into the diner when it was still opened and have coffee and a bite to eat.

There is something special about one’s hometown and the nostalgic memories that surface when one reminisces about times gone by and all the experiences one had. Certainly, for those who didn’t move on a constant basis, people’s lives are rooted in the places they grew up. The good, the bad and the ugly. It is also true that those who moved around a lot as a child can feel like they don’t really have any roots. Hence the Alice Merton song Roots, in which she sings: “I build a home and wait for someone to tear it down. Then pack it up in boxes, head for the next town running. ‘Cause I’ve got memories and travel like gypsies in the night. I’ve got no roots but my home was never on the ground…”

I am sure that Jesus was very much rooted in his hometown of Nazareth. It is there that he grew up. It is there that he played, that learned his faith from his mother. It is there that he came of age and became a member of the local synagogue. It is there that he learned the carpentry trade and it is there that he experienced his call to become an itinerant rabbi.

Yet, there is a more dark and pernicious side to one’s hometown too. There is a side that is more hidden in the proverbial dark basement that doesn’t come out until the moment one begins to question the order of things. Jesus found this out in his hometown. Hometowns love their own, so long as they stay exactly in the place they’ve always been.

Had Jesus remained the carpenter from Nazareth, no one would have had qualms with him. But the Jesus that returned to Nazareth following his baptism and temptation in the desert was not the same Jesus that had left Nazareth seeking the will of God. The Jesus who returned was not the carpenter, but the Son of God focused to draw people unto himself so that they might be saved.

This Jesus healed. This Jesus taught. This Jesus drew a crowd and, in front of that crowd, called the religious, community and political establishment, as well as individuals, to account for their waywardness. This Jesus claimed that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy on the coming Day of the Lord, and this Jesus was claiming to be THE MESSIAH, the promised one who would deliver Israel!

The Nazarenes could not accept that precisely because they thought they knew Jesus. He was the carpenter’s son, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and his unnamed sisters. How could Jesus be the Messiah? How could he dare to come into the synagogue and preach us. Who died and gave him that authority?

It’s easy for us to point a finger at Nazareth and question them on their disbelief, but are we any better? How many of us think we KNOW Jesus? Yet, do we really KNOW Jesus? Would he walk into our homes and churches and feel at HOME? Or would he find us to be an unwelcoming place? Would we change our hearts at his guidance and direction? Or would we kick him out of our sanctuary and try to throw him over a cliff?

The challenge for us is to NOT be that kind of a hometown; however, in order to avoid that we need to expose the underbelly of our homes and places of worship. We need to stop seeing ourselves as sinless and in no need for improvement. We need to stop labeling little Joey and little Betty as being x, y, and z; rather we need to accept people for who they are in the moment, not who we think they are based off of who they once were.

Finally, we need to challenge ourselves to be open to critique and we need to be self-aware enough to admit when we’ve been called out for being in error. Yes, we need to be discerning and not all critique is true or honest; however, we need to at least hear the critique in a balanced and reflective way before we could ever be able to discern if it is from God or not. Be open to the correction of the spirit and be an exception to the rule that a prophet is not welcome in his/her hometown.

Be careful that you are not the one rejecting Jesus because He doesn’t meet up to your qualifications; rather, we need to open ourselves to Christ so that, by grace, we may be conformed to his expectations.

Lord, mold me and shape me into the disciple you’re calling me to be. Amen.

Pieces of You

Read James 4:1-12

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NLT)

Jewel-Pieces_Of_YouI love music that speaks to my soul. I am not a radio listener, for the most part. I do not listen to music for the sake of hearing catchy pop tunes, or the latest fad. Every now and again I will turn on the radio, just because I am not sure what mood I am in and/or what music I want to listen to, and occasionally I am blessed to come across a gem of a song that inspires me to check out other work by an artist.

It was somewhere during the Spring of 1995 when I turned on the radio in my car.  I had just got my license and I wanted to listen to some music. It was in that car at that moment that I heard the voice of an angel singing a question that still resonates with me today, “Who Will Save Your Soul?” That artist is, of course, Jewel Kilchner (often just referred to as Jewel). The song stuck with me and at some point my parents went out and got me her debut album, “Pieces of You”. It is an album that spoke to my soul in a way that most albums have never done, and most certainly never will.

There was an honesty and complexity in her hauntingly beautiful lyrics mixed with her folk-style guitar playing. Her angelic voice plays on the eardrums like a harpist plays on one’s heartstrings! One of the songs that spoke to me so much was the eponymous track, “Pieces of You.” In that song, Jewel puts each and every one of us on trial as she begins to address common stereotypes and askes probing questions of the listener, who may or may not hold those stereotypes. For those who don’t, the questions reflect the need for them to become a part of the solution rather than just sitting quietly on the sideline. For those who do hold those stereotypes, the song becomes rather convicting and, perhaps, quite a bit uncomfortable as Jewel puts their consciences on trial.

If you haven’t listened to the song, YouTube it. I highly recommend you listen to it as it will add a deeper meaning to this devotion, though I must warn you that she uses language that is often used by those who label those they are stereotyping. It’s not gratuitous, however, and the language is certainly appropriate given the context of the song.

The driving question of the song is this, why do we stereotype people? Why do humans tend to group people together and label them as if they are all the same because of the label we attribute to them? For instance, are women to be defined by their looks? Are they to be defined by their sexuality? Are they to be defined by their body parts? Do men (or women) want to reject a woman because they perceive her as ugly, or do they want to “get with her” just because she is perceived as pretty?

How about gay men and women? Do we want to deny their humanity, that they were created in the image of God like the rest of us? Do we want to shun them? Should they merely be defined by their sexuality, by their orientation, and by who they are in love with? Or how about people of different religious beliefs? Do we judge them as less than us because we view our beliefs as superior? Do we judge them as peculiar because their normal is different than our normal? Do we judge them as sinners because their expression of faith is different than ours?

The question that Jewel asks is one we should be asking ourselves. Do we hate different people because of any valid or good reason? Is there any reason to hate? Or do we hate different people because of fear, because when we look at them we are reminded that they are pieces of us, and that the differences in them remind us of the parts of us that are unknown and uncertain? If we are truly lovers of God, if we are true followers of Christ, we know that it is not our place to judge and that we are constantly being called to step outside of our comfort zone to love ALL people. Jesus didn’t put any exceptions on who we should and shouldn’t love. What’s more, Jesus did not give us any loopholes in which it would be okay for us to judge. Instead of rejecting people, I pray we can all begin to accept others as “pieces of us”, for if we do that we will begin to recognize that we are all related to each other and to the human experience.

For every sin you point your finger at in the Bible, the Bible has ten pointing back at you.

Lord, teach us to love others as you have loved us. Help us to drop our false labels, in order that we may begin to see people as they TRULY are…your children. Amen.