A Reflection on Sunday – Faith & Mission

This last Sunday Joshua walked us through Jesus encountering resistance to his ministry among his home town and the people who knew him most intimately. We are told that their response to the incredible authority and power Jesus displayed was to “take offense at him”. Jesus poignantly noted that “only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor”. Why is this, and what is happening here?

Our propensity to categorize…

There’s an old adage which notes “familiarity breeds contempt”. Another way of saying this is that we can tend to take for granted or cease to recognize the specialness of that which we see and encounter routinely. I grew up in San Diego and spent a lot of time at the beach. One day while hanging out there, a van-load of young adults from Idaho pulled up and sprinted down to the water. They laughed and even cried as they frolicked in the surf. They were overwhelmed with emotion at their first encounter with that which was completely normative, or even mundane for me. All of us have the propensity to categorize the constituent parts (& people!) of our lives into a patchwork quilt of what we come to know as “normal”. We can lose sight of just how special someone or something is because it (or they) fit into a neat slot of the daily norm of our lives. Within this (often unintentional) categorizing of our “norm”, we can all too easily lose sight of the truly special that surrounds us. A relationship that is full of passion can digress into complacency. A routine that fills us with inspiration can digress into laborious repetition. Often it is not the people or things around us that have changed in this process, but rather that we have internally made a predetermination of what place or category they fit in within our lives. Rather than someone or something being free to be what it truly is, it is often confined to the neat little roll we have even unwittingly assigned it within our well-ordered internal judgements and expectations. We all tend to categorize and assign a slot to all that enters or resides within our lives.

Our propensity to anticipate…

These firm categorizations that we tend toward can generate firm expectations. These expectations that we form can limit our sense of what is possible. In Jesus’ case, the people he grew up with had a very difficult time seeing him as anything more than the carpenters’ son. ‘How could this guy be special? He went to school with my kids!’ You may have experienced this limiting refernce in your own life before. In my own story, I didn’t come to know Jesus until I was 18 years old. Over a very short period of time I went through radical life reorientation. I remember talking with a family member during this time who asked what was happening with me (change was evident!). I said that I had encountered Jesus and that he had so impacted me that I wanted to spend my whole life following him. This person simply looked at me and replied “well, we’ll see how long this lasts!” They had experienced the old-Mike for so long, that they simply could not fathom a different Mike. The category they had slotted me into had birthed anticipations of what to expect from me, and these were hard to shake even in the face of powerful evidence that something, indeed, had radically shifted my life. I was just “Mary & Jospeh’s son”, and they “took offense at me”. Where you experience this, understand that you’re simply bumping up against well-rehearsed anticipations. These anticipations do not define who you are, nor what God can do in your life!

Being defined by Jesus…

As we journey with Jesus we will routinely encounter the categorizations and anticipations that we and others have for us. Jesus invites us to step boldly into all that he has dreamed us to be, which means courageously stepping out of being limited by the opinions, categorizations and expectations of others. No one can tell you who you are. Only Jesus can do that! One of the primary weapons the enemy uses against us is the voice of those around us telling us what we are limited to. These voices are often well intended, but nonetheless damaging. As Jesus boldly stepped into who he was, the community around him was tweaked by this. He didn’t allow their judgements and expectations to define him. Jesus is in the business of transforming lives and miraculously empowering seemingly dead-narratives. Know that he intends to do this with you! Allow him to tell you who you truly are, and step boldly into what he’s stirring within you!


Mike Safford