I wish that following Jesus made family relationships easier. When I wrote about his homecoming to Nazareth for Unfollowers, I was reminded that theology and family don’t always mix well.
In Luke 4 we read that Jesus returned to Nazareth in the power of the Spirit and made an of announcement about his ministry. His talk in the synagogue went well, people spoke in glowing terms of his teaching, and it sounded like they supported his ministry. However, things quickly went downhill.
I wish that the friends and family of Jesus from his home town embraced his message. Instead they insulted him, suggesting that he was no teacher or religious authority. They said he was just as ill as everyone else and that he should focus on healing himself rather than others.
Jesus could have just walked away and settled in his cozy fishing village by the Sea of Galilee. Rather, Jesus spoke like a prophet, announcing that he would take his message to the Gentiles and that they would listen. For the Jewish people who identified themselves as God’s chosen people, there was no insult more cutting than this.
While there’s no denying that the mission of God throughout the New Testament has consistently been to make one people out of the Jews and Gentiles, the proclamation from Jesus was understood as a loss and an insult to their Jewish identity.
Years of military conflict, ethnic strife, and exploitation had further fueled the anger of the people in Nazareth toward the Gentiles. However, Jesus wasn’t one to let history dictate the plans of God to reconcile all people together as one. He was blunt and honest.
In my own experience, I’ve tried to be direct and blunt about my beliefs with my family. Sometimes I was insensitive and even wrong. Sometimes I stuck to my beliefs, and my relationships suffered for years as a result.
I’m encouraged to know that Jesus’ mother eventually came around, moving from doubter who thought him crazy to one of the disciples baptized with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. However, in this story at least, Jesus was clearly at odds with his friends and family, and he essentially dumped gasoline on it all before striking a match.
God’s salvation is going to the Gentiles?
It was bad enough that the people tried to toss Jesus over a cliff.
I don’t know how close they got to actually throwing him over the edge, but the simple fact that this was even remotely possible drives home how ugly things can get when we are at odds with family members over our beliefs.
How Did Jesus Reconcile with His Family and Friends?
As distrubing as it is to read that Jesus was nearly killed when he returned to his home town, there is a glimmer of hope in the Gospels. After all, even James, the brother of Jesus, became a leader of the church in Jerusalem.
We don’t know all of the details, but there’s one simple detail we dare not overlook: time.
Over the passage of time, the offensiveness of Jesus faded for at least some of his friends and family members.
In my own experiences, time can do much to mend relationships. We can only do so much to reconcile with family and friends when we’re split over our religious beliefs. At times we won’t see any progress, and we’ll start to wonder whether things will ever change.
At a certain point, Jesus got through to his family or his family at least bonded together when the Jewish leaders plotted to kill him. However it happened, many of the people closest to Jesus went from angry mob, to insulting doubters, to grieving disciples, to Spirit empowered disciples.
There Is Hope for Divided Families
The story of Jesus’ conflict with his home town and family offers us the kind of hope we can overlook–the hope that conflicts with loved ones and trusted friends can essentially evaporate over time. As days, weeks, months, and years pass, we may not arrive at unity or agreement, but the edges of our arguments can dull over time.
As the years pass we’ll change, rethink our priorities, and see each other with different perspectives. We may even find peace with each other over the issues that once upset us the most.