July 27th 2009

Consigned To Being An Outsider

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers evil doers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

I can still remember the searing pain of humiliation. I was so excited about playing Under 8’s Football that I hardly slept. Just as I had hoped, Sunday was a most beautiful day. Anticipation was in my every step as I walked toward the park. Then suddenly my memory fast-forwarded so quickly that all I could remember was that same little eight-year-old boy running home with his boots and sobbing.

After years of replaying this unresolved event in my mind, I learned from my mother exactly what had occurred. She said that one of the junior soccer coaches required that I had to have my father sign the registration form. But my parents had divorced. Without a father, I felt utterly and hopelessly inadequate to be part of the team. I thus was consigned to being an outsider.

In Jesus’ day, such people as tax collectors were despised by self-righteous Jews and thus consigned to be “outsiders” by the religious authorities. It’s no wonder that the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable looked at the tax collector with such disdain (Luke 18:9-12). But guess what? It was the humble and repentant tax collector, not the proud Pharisee, who returned home justified before God (vv. 13-14) because God sets Himself against the proud but shows favour to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

Pride is at the heart of all prejudice. And humbling yourself under God’ s mighty hand is the first step in combating the prejudice in your heart (v. 6). After all, the humble person realizes that there is no basis for thinking of himself as better than someone else, for all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Likewise, all of us have been made right with God through faith in Christ (v. 25).

God’s desire is that no one be barred from His kingdom just because of his or her race, gender, social standing, or economic status. All who believe are saved.

Now that’s good news worth sharing!

Father, thank You that Jesus died for the whole world. Every tribe, nation and tongue. Burn away in me any hint of prejudice, any racism, any bigotry, or sectarianism. Fill me with love and compassion for all people.

Study by Fraser Murdoch