There’s a dangerous current that runs through much of Christianity. And it’s this.
We’re in. We are on God’s side. “They” are not.
Whose they? Well I could probably write an entire blog post just on that. But “they” often refers
to those who don’t believe the same way.
There is very sadly a predominate I’m right, you’re wrong them that runs widely in Christian circles.
Now, I’m not writing this to be critical, I’m writing it because my heart is for people to know that if you’ve ever been put down, judged or criticized that’s not God.
Jesus loved the people that others considered the bad guys.
In fact Jesus has a conversation with a group of people in Matthew 15 that had been considered outcasts for literally thousands of years. I mean can you imagine that? For thousands of years this group of people are treated like the evil bad neighbors by God’s own people and Jesus steps in and says, Nope you’re in. You’re not out.
So who are these bad guys? Well to tell that story we need to go back, well like I said, thousands of years.
An interesting story transpires in Genesis 9. It’s about a man named Noah. Now I know what you just did. Noah’s ark just popped into your head. But there’s another side to Noah many don’t know about and it’s in the Bible. Really that’s the beauty of scripture. It takes so many unexpected twists and turns and sure we love to talk about all the “feel good” stuff, but there’s some dark stuff that happened that’s just part of being human. But God used that stuff too.
So in Genesis 9 Noah gets drunk and naked. Sounds like a fun night. I’m kidding 😉 His son Ham sees him drunk and naked and goes and tells all his brothers. COME ON you wouldn’t ? 😉 So Noah wakes up and sees Ham and he’s pissed, and he curses Ham’s family beginning with Ham’s son Canaan.
Now let’s very briefly talk about the importance of cursing.
In their culture cursing was a big deal. It was basically a modern day version of being excommunicated from a family. It meant you lost the approval of the person doing the cursing. So in a family this was a big deal. Ham lost the blessing and favor of his father. Sadly this was something that haunted him and his children for generations to come.
So Canaan has a son named Sidon. Sidon has a number of sons.
And in Judges 10 we find an interesting twist in this story. The Sidonians are oppressing the Israelites.
What’s so important to note here is that our words matter. So much. Noah cursed his son and his son’s family. His son believed he was cursed and it lasted for generations, literally pathing a path of death and destruction. Our words matter.
So here’s a few other Biblical references to the Sidonians.
1 Kings – King Solomon marries a number of Sidonian women and as a results ends up straying from God and worshipping the goddess Ashtoreth.
2 Kings – King Ahab marries Jezebel who is a Sidonian princess, and if you know anything about Jezebel you’ll know she turned out to be BIG trouble.
Isaiah 23 – The prophet Isaiah predicts a very bleak future for the Sidonians basically telling them they will never find peace because of all they’ve done.
Jeremiah 25,47 – Jeremiah talks about a day when there would be absolutely no help for Sidon.
Ezekiel 27, 28, 32 – Ezekiel talks about the Sidonians being slain in disgrace, lying uncircumcised in their shame.
This is some pretty harsh stuff. For generations these Sidonians aren’t just the bad guys but they are the baddest of the bad. I could probably write an entire separate blog post about unsolved anger and hatred, but we’ll save that for another time.
So fast forward to Jesus’ time. The Jewish people were the chosen ones, God’s people. Solomon said someone that resonates so true today, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The Jewish people in Jesus’ day had a very similar mentality that we do today. They’re out, We’re in.
But then Jesus turns this entire debate on it’s head. A belief held for thousands of years in turned on it’s head in moment. Because Jesus does the unthinkable. He intentionally GOES to Sidon ! SAY WHAT? Jesus goes to the place where everyone hates. Jesus intentionally goes and visits a group of people that his own people despise.
In Mark 7 and Matthew 15 we read stories of Jesus going to Sidon. In Matthew 15:28 Jesus is even amazed at the “great faith” of a woman from Sidon. And in Luke 6 people from Sidon come to be healed by Jesus.
But wait this doesn’t make any sense !?
In the book of Matthew Jesus’ own people are rejecting him and in Matthew 11:22 Jesus tells them, “I tell you Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.” And then Jesus brings us Sodom (you know Sodom and Gommorrah) also a group of really bad people. And he says that it would be better if he performed miracles in Sodom than where he was. Crazy right?
WAIT WHAT? Jesus is saying that this group of people that has been cursed for thousands of years are going to be better off on judgement day than God’s own chosen people ? That makes absolutely no sense. Or does it ?
Jesus knew they were cursed and he could have cared less. Why? Because Jesus came to heal the wound. And he takes it farther than any of us could have possibly anticipated. He tells us the Sidonians are in better standing with God than the people who believed they were in.
According to Jesus it was better to be a Sidonian than one of the “religious” people of the day that believed the Sidonians were cursed.
Jesus then says 2 things immediately after all this which really bring a lot more intrigue to this story.
In Matthew 11:25 Jesus says, “I praise you Father because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to the little children.” In other words what Jesus is saying is that God has hidden these things from the religious know it alls and revealed them to those who are willing to have child like faith. Children don’t have preconceived notions of anyone. They love unconditionally. Jesus is trying to drive a point home here.
And then in Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Do you think these people who for thousands of years had been cursed were wearied and burdened ? I’ll bet so. And I’ll bet many of you reading this have felt oppressed by modern day religion. Jesus is telling us there’s an alternative. There’s another way.
The religious people of Jesus’ day held VERY tightly to their belief system. I mean that doesn’t sound ANYTHING like today does it 😉
Jesus turned thousands of years of thinking upside down. He challenged us to think in a new way.
He brought up radical concepts that are still unheard of even today.
Love your enemies.
Bless those who curse you.
Don’t worry about the future.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Nothing is more important than loving God and others.
If you want to become great, become a servant.
God love everyone unconditionally.
Jesus invited us into a new way of living. He challenged us to think about things in a new way.
Jesus invites us into not an exclusive relationship with God but an inclusive one. A God who loves us despite of us. A radical concept then and a radical one now.