25 [While he was in the Synagogue in Nazareth Jesus said]: But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;
26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
They are offended because Jesus shattered their prized sense of group identity. They believed they were God’s specially chosen people. They were set apart from the rest of humanity, cherished by God, and given a special place in the world.
But, Jesus questioned their vision pointing out that God performed great acts of mercy and compassion for people who were outside the parameters of their select group. Jesus dared to suggest that God was not interested in boundaries of ethnicity, class, or culture.
In response to Jesus’ vision of grace without borders, the violence in the hearts of his audience was revealed. The vision of ourselves as special, distinct, above the other, always leads to violence.
I see the risk of attaching my identity to a particular group. It is tempting to define myself by the people with whom I associate. We are the civilized ones. We are the enlightened ones, the sophisticated ones. We are not narrow, bigoted fundamentalists.
But Jesus challenges me to look across all the barriers and to take deeply to heart his vision that there is only one human family of which we are all equally a part.
Paul understood this clearly and pushed the vision to its furthest extreme writing,
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
How do I embody this expansive vision of human community?