“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, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.”—Luke 4:28-30, NLT
Jesus, upon returning to his boyhood hometown of Nazareth, unrolled the scroll of Isaiah and announced that the Spirit of the Lord had sent Him to minister and serve all people (including Gentiles) as their long-awaited Messiah.
This did not sit well with the Jewish people, who wanted nothing to do with foreigners and Gentiles. So they mobbed Him and coerced Him to the edge of a nearby cliff with the full intent to cast Him over the edge.
The announcement Jesus shared was welcomed, so long as it did not mean associating with outsiders. This was the world in which the disciples of Jesus Christ lived as they endeavored to spread the message of Jesus to all, both Jew and Gentile.
Are we living in the same tension today? Do the disciples of Christ want to know the Messiah, but not to associate with those who need Him most?
Have there been times when attempts have been made to throw you off a cliff, figuratively speaking? Was it perhaps because you were getting “too cozy” with reaching out to unbelievers or people of other races or ethnicities in your community? Maybe you were intending to extend your ministry beyond the four walls of your church by providing youth activities for the unchurched in your community. Suddenly you’re hit with questions such as: Who are these kids? Why are they here? Are any of them even our kids?
The fact is, when your church begins to relate to hurting, non-believing, marginalized people (young and elderly), things can get pretty tense. There may even be attempts to throw you over a cliff! But if you see people the way Jesus saw them, your response will mirror His to embrace all peoples, of all backgrounds, colors, races, cultures, and ethnicities, as individuals to be touched with compassion and love.
Our job is not to manage God’s battles for Him. We are simply called to share the Good News of Jesus with everyone, starting with the person closest to you.
It was Mother Teresa who said: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world, so never worry about numbers.” She writes, “Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”
Edward Everett Hale, an American author, historian, and Unitarian clergyman born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, was quoted as saying: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
When we focus on doing something for Jesus, He will guide us to the place where He wants us to serve. The same Spirit of the Lord who anointed Jesus to bring Good News to the poor will appoint you and anoint you to do a great work in His name.
So I encourage you to be courageous. Hang in there, even when you find yourself serving others at the edge of the cliff. Jehovah is your pilot. He will see you through.
Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.