Having resolved this yearn to join with my church family (and many others) in reading the whole bible this year, I intend to hold myself accountable by sharing a key personal learning point each week.
This week I really noticed the barriers pride and familiarity can pose to belief.
As Jesus sends out the twelve apostles, he is mindful that there will be those who will not hear their message, and warns of the consequences of their unbelief:
‘And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.’
– Matthew 10:13-14
The comparison with the judgement of the city of Sodom is revisited in the next chapter as the people of three cities located at the north end of the Sea of Galilee have clearly not repented after hearing Jesus’s teaching:
‘he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgement for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom than for you.’
– Matthew 11:20-24
I was reminded of the account in Mark’s gospel where the people of Jesus’s own town were so familiar with the Jesus they thought they knew that they could not perceive him as anything other than the man they had known for so many years:
‘He went away from there and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his home town and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief.’
‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is a well-known idiom, and I am sure many will recognise the challenges of witnessing to close friends and family and friends who don’t share the same faith – those who know all our faults and failings which then act as a barrier to their own conviction.