When familiarity in Christianity breeds contempt

4 Jan

Many churches promise that nothing they do will be familiar.  Everything will be surprising.  Nothing will look or feel like church as people have come to know it.  Why?  Because familiarity breeds contempt in the minds of men.  So, church leaders feel they must continually update, improve, enhance, reinvent, augment, supplement, change, adapt, innovate, rearrange, in order to keep church fresh, interesting, relevant, and attractive to church-shoppers.  Of course, this usually becomes a tiresome exercise in futility as incessant newness itself gets pretty old.  Interestingly, Jesus felt the same way at one point about his own ministry.

From Matthew 13:

53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

From J.C. Ryle:

…we ought to notice in these verses the strange treatment which our Lord received in His own country.

He came to the town of Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and “taught in their synagogue.” His teaching, no doubt, was the same as it always was. “Never a man spoke like this man.” But it had no effect on the people of Nazareth. They were “astonished,” but their hearts were unmoved. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” They despised Him, because they were so familiar with Him. “They were offended in him.” And they drew from our Lord the solemn remark, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.”

Let us see, in this history, a melancholy page of human nature unfolded to our view. We are all apt to despise mercies, if we are accustomed to them, and have them cheap. The Bibles and religious books, which are so plentiful in England, the means of grace of which we have so abundant a supply, the preaching of the Gospel which we hear every week–all, all are liable to be undervalued. It is mournfully true that in religion, more than in anything else, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Men forget that truth is truth, however old and hackneyed it may sound, and despise it because it is old. Alas! by so doing, they provoke God to take it away.

Do we wonder that the relations, servants and neighbors of godly people are not always converted? Do we wonder that the parishioners of eminent ministers of the Gospel are often their hardest and most impenitent hearers? Let us wonder no more. Let us mark the experience of our Lord at Nazareth, and learn wisdom.

Do we ever imagine that if we had only seen and heard Jesus Christ, we would have been His faithful disciples? Do we think that if we had only lived near Him, and been eyewitnesses of His ways, we would not have been undecided, wavering, and half-hearted about religion? If we do, let us think so no longer. Let us observe the people of Nazareth, and learn wisdom.

 

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