I have been giddy about God since the first moment I really understood God’s unconditional love. Not that I understand it completely, but once I got a glimpse of it, I was forever changed. I also found it easier to talk honestly about God from that moment on; I felt like I actually had something to say.
It’s tempting to think it must be, should be, or will be like this for everyone. It’s also tempting to think that because I know God loves me and because God and I are in relationship, I have some insight into what it takes. At my worst, maybe I even think I can identify who isn’t worthy of this kind of relationship.
It turns out, this has been happening since biblical times. Jesus addressed it head-on with the people of Nazareth, his hometown.
When he did, things didn’t go so well. People were so upset they formed an angry mob and pushed Jesus to the edge of town. They were filled with rage and wanted to throw him off the nearest cliff (Luke 4:16-30).
What message upset people so much?
Jesus pointed out he couldn’t play favorites, not even with his hometown friends. He said, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” (Luke 4:23).
Jesus knew they wanted special privileges. It seems his friends in Nazareth not only wanted access to God through a hometown prophet, but they also wanted to withhold that access from others.
Anticipating this, Jesus said:
Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:24-30).
Jesus explained that Elijah could have helped widows in Israel, but he was directed to help a non-Hebrew widow in Sidon instead. Similarly, Elisha could have helped lepers in Israel, but he helped Naaman from the Syrian army. In other words, Elijah and Elisha followed God’s lead. They weren’t selfish with God, doling out God’s goodness to only the hometown crowd.
Jesus confronted, and challenged, the crowd’s sense of privilege that day in Nazareth. That’s why they wanted to throw him off a cliff.
If I imagine I’m part of the hometown crowd by virtue of my relationship with Jesus, it’s helpful to remember what happened in Luke 4.
I need to remember God’s love is for me without being only for me.
The Gospel is good news for me but not only for me. I value my personal relationship with God, but it is far from exclusive—I share God with you and many, many others.
All in all, I need to make sure I’m not being selfish with God.
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