I was in junior high standing a few feet from a group of guys wearing their football letter-jackets. Some were seniors in my high school and a few were recent graduates (or least I think they graduated). They were cracking jokes, talking with bluster, and demonstrating proficiency with cussing. Several had a sizable amount of chewing tobacco cuffed in their jaw.
The biggest fella in the group launched into a story that I only wish I could forget:
“The other night we was all up on main street shootin’ the *!@ when we saw `em drive by. They was three of ‘em. So I said, ‘What the h*!! do they think they’re doin’.’ They drove up and down the main drag a couple of time and then they pull up and start talkin’ to (he names the girls). Then they had the nerve to get outta their car. Can you believe that? Them three soldier boys from Ft. Sill thought they could ride into town with their skint-head haircuts and talk to our girls!
So we walked on over there and kinda circled around ‘em and asked just what they thought they was doing. This one little doggie (“affectionate” local name for army privates stationed at Ft. Sill Army Base) says they don’t want no trouble and that they was just wantin’ to meet some people. What a load of bull @*#! ! They was trying to get ‘em a gal.
Right then old Jack stepped in and spit a chaw of tobacco right in his face, he said, ‘Ya’ll better get the h*!! outta town and take yer sorry doggie butts back down to Lawton while you still can.’ By then there was about ten of us and we had ‘em surrounded.”
They all laughed. It was an uproarious laugh and as I reflect upon the scene, it was an evil (or ignorant) laugh. I smiled on the outside, but on the inside it was a punch in the gut. You may not understand this, but at the time, I absorbed an expectation, a self-imposed responsibility. I asked myself this question, “What will I do when I’m the ‘keeper of Main Street’ on Saturday night?” Will I be man enough protect the honor of our fair maidens? Is that the unspoken standard of virtue for me? It bothered me. It bothered me a lot.
As a developing adolescent, I don’t mind telling you that I struggled to resolve the moral of the story. I chided myself for feeling sorry for the young soldiers. My sympathy was a huge sign of weakness. My distain for this kind of macho confrontation only served to show that I was just a boy. And, I suppose that I assumed everyone in town shared a negative attitude toward 19 year old soldier boys who mistakenly decided to visit. That was NOT the case, but my world was extremely small.
SO THINK ABOUT THIS
What would you do in 1967? How does a boy of 12 or 13 resolve the matter?
Today I turn to Jesus. He was spit upon. Jesus too was run out of town.
In Luke 4, Jesus returns to His home town and takes up the Scripture in the synagogue. Jesus reads from Isaiah and declares it FULFILLED.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Israelites were very familiar with this passage and they longed for fulfillment. At first they react with enthusiasm. They think, “Wow! This is our local boy who is bringing the message we have long awaited, this will be good for us!” There was a buzz amongst the locals; they stood to gain a lot. But Jesus throws them for a loop. He offers two stories about famous prophets of Israel, and the punch line in both stories is that the great benefit of God’s grace is for outsiders. The story of Elijah is a story of blessing for outsiders in Sidon. The story of Elisha is about Naaman the Syrian (not Israelite) who was cured of his leprosy.
Jesus reminds his own townspeople that God’s people do not exist for their own sakes, but to be a blessing to the world.
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. Luke 4:28-30
“Hey wait a minute; this is about US, right?” “This can’t be about THEM; not the Outsiders!!”
The people in the synagogue ran him out of town. They were selfish about the Messiah. More to the point, they were selfish through and through. Their “theology” was ego-centric, thus they wanted to consume God’s favor, not give it away.
KINGDOM VALUE – We are to be conduits of God’s love. We are to be a vehicle of grace.
When I hear people in the church talk about God’s favor I am first reminded of the angel’s visit to Mary, mother of Jesus. “Greetings,” the angel said, “you who are highly favored!” From that time on Mary poured out her life. She trekked to a stable for childbirth, she fled to Egypt to avoid Herod’s efforts to kill her child, and we can’t imagine the heartache of enduring the execution of her blessed Son. Was she highly favored? Yes, indeed. Was she self-consumed? No, not in the least.
How do I break out of my self-centered view of God’s grace and favor? Where is my hope for Christian liberty? I can be free by joining Jesus in His passion for outsiders. It’s my call to cooperate with grace toward others. My privilege is to enhance the flow of grace and favor outwardly rather than inwardly.
Got favor? Are you an Insider or an Outsider? I can tell you where Jesus is.