Jump Start # 2608
John 1:46 “Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Ole’ Nathanael had a problem that many of us have today. He liked to generalize. He painted, as we say, with a broad brush. Nathanael likely was just repeating what he had heard all of us life. Nazareth was not where things happened. It was a sleepy little village. Folks moved out of Nazareth to make something of their lives. For the Jews, Jerusalem was where it was at. Large, important, and the place to be. News came out of Jerusalem. But Nazareth? No, not that little place.
But Nathanael would later learn that something good did come out of Nazareth. In fact, the greatest person who ever walked this planet came from there. Jesus Christ was from Nazareth. The Savior of the world came from Nazareth. We, to this day, reckon our time by “The Year of the Lord.” Mr. Nathanael was wrong. Jesus came from Nazareth.
Now, we often do what Nathanael did. We like to paint with a broad brush. We tend to generalize. All women, men say. All men, women say back. All blondes. All whites. All blacks. All liberals. All conservatives. All Hoosiers. All lawyers. All doctors. All cops. All young people. All teenagers. All senior citizens. We can even do this religiously. All Baptists. All Catholics. All people that go to the church of Christ. Lumped together.
And in this current racial upheaval that broad brush has surfaced again. Lots of broad finger pointing taking place.
Here are some lessons to consider:
First, generalizations do not allow room for exceptions. Jesus was an exception. Nathanael thought nothing good could come out of Nazareth. Maybe he had some bad experiences with folks from Nazareth. However, what he said wasn’t true. Jesus came from there. Jesus was the definition of good. No one was better than Jesus. So, not everyone in a generalized group will behave, believe or be like everyone else. There are exceptions. Not all cops are bad. Not all college professors are liberals. Not all white people are racists. Saying those things are inaccurate and someone will surely point out an exception and that will take all the wind out of your rant and argument.
Second, generalizations do not account for individual choices. More of us base our decisions upon individual choices rather than a group mentality. Now look at this in the death of George Floyd. A policeman did wrong. Was that his individual choice or was that because that’s what cops do or that’s what white people do? One man’s wrong choice has erupted into violence in cities hundreds of miles away that has nothing to do with that one wrong choice. Now, stretch this out a bit. Here is a young man and he falls in love with a girl. She doesn’t love him and in fact, she dumps him. He becomes bitter, gives up on dating and for the rest of his lonely life believes all women are selfish and stuck-up. His assessment is flawed and wrong. He’s based it upon what one person chose to do. A bad experience with an attorney and one can think all attorneys are that way. A bad experience with a school and one can believe all schools are the same. And, this also applies to churches, elderships and preachers. I know. I’ve run into many who have had horror stories about how they were treated or mistreated. It takes a mountain of convincing to get them to understand that not everyone acts the way that they were treated. Bad congregations. Bad elderships. Bad preachers. They exist. But it’s because of their individual choices.
Third, Nathanael, to his credit, was willing to come and meet Jesus. In our verse, Philip says, ‘Come and see.’ And, that’s exactly what Nathanael did. He went. He saw. He met. His mind was changed. He followed the one from Nazareth. And, what a great lesson for us. We can stand with what we have always heard or we can find out for ourselves. We can sit down and have a conversation with someone. We can ask questions. We can make up our own minds rather than having someone else do that for us. Worse than generalizations, is allowing someone to shape your own thinking. You can believe all blondes are dumb or you can find out that is simply a false rumor. Hair color doesn’t make one smart or dumb. It’s what they know and the choices that they make.
One platform that we express broad generalities is in Bible classes. A comment is made and someone gets out that big, broad brush and here we go. “My brother is a Baptist, and all Baptists are…” Be careful. You are more likely to be wrong than right.
Finally, we don’t like others to make broad generalizations about us. So, the golden rule applies here. Treat others, the way you’d like to be treated. Put away that big brush. Hiding behind numbers and big generalizations can make us feel safe. I learned a long time ago when someone says, “Everyone in the church is upset,” it usually means “me, myself and I.” “No one likes this,” likely means, “I don’t like this.” Don’t hide behind others. If you can’t stand on your own, then it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself.
I expect Nathanael stopped saying, “Nothing good comes out of Nazareth.” He knew better. He knew the Best. And, when we learn like he did, we too, will stop using those generalizations.