Do you know that we freeze-dry people? What I mean is that we only see them as they were when we first knew them; we struggle to accept that God changes people. Our image of them is stiff and brittle. When a new reality in someone’s life challenges our inflexible view, the image shatters and leaves painfully sharp fragments that can damage the relationship.
Jesus experienced the phenomenon and commented on it:
He came to His home town and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:54-58)
Nazareth was little more than a village. From the day that Mary and Joseph returned with the baby Jesus to the time when He began His ministry, everyone knew His story. In Nazareth, His life was fairly ordinary. The people of Nazareth knew nothing of His nativity in Bethlehem. His first miracle happened over the hills at a wedding in Cana. The Jesus the locals knew was a craftsman supporting His mother and six or more siblings. When Jesus began to teach and do miracles, their image of Him suddenly proved to be fragile.
Some of us know what the rejection of our new reality by loved ones is like. Perhaps they knew us when we were a wreck with legs. It hurts when they can’t adapt to our new health and freedom. A healthy life with the Lord inevitably results in spiritual growth. For anyone living at a distance it can be hard to adjust to increasing maturity.
Some of us, like the people of Nazareth, are guilty of the unbelief that makes no room for changed lives; the old images are more convenient. Our sin is not so much against the individual as it is against God. The challenge is to believe that God changes people—from sinners to saints and from ordinary people to spirit-filled children of God.
The lesson for those of us that are faced with the family freeze is to be humble and gracious. Our warmth can melt the old images and remold them around our new reality. We should do the work that we can among our own people, but be prepared to move on to places where there is greater openness to the new things God is doing in and through us. Sometimes God grows us by leading us to a new home where our neighbors immediately accept us for who we are. However, ideally, if we stay current with our friends and family, they will witness the change in us and we will see them grow too.
Let’s believe in the power of God to transform lives. Let’s encourage one another as we mature. Barnabus is a wonderful example of a man who was prepared to trust the miraculous change he saw in Paul, and promote him in God’s work.1
Please share Bible Maturity with anyone who would benefit from other Bible devotions like this one.
- Acts 9:26-28. [↩]
A very interesting way of looking at the subject, John. I’d certainly not considered that before. I should give that some thought about how I view my friends and acquaintances.
Your comments about the people of Nazareth was provocative. Really a perfect example of a presumptive view of other people.