Remember how I told you on Day 20 that I would tell you about the new group that came to Bethsaida to help us dig? Well, today is the day.
The guy who runs the new group (who was not present at the dig) runs a psychiatric clinic in the Christian Arab community in Nazareth known as “The Nazareth Village”. This small community has become a historic tourist spot because of its connections to first century Christianity in Nazareth (or so it claims; these things are very hard to prove and are many times just talk to make them popular). His wife (who brought the group to the dig) was a tour guide for the Village.
The volunteers from this group were in close proximity to my age and came from various states around America. Their internship at the Village could last for months or years, depending on how long they wanted to stay. Some people have been there for years. Some of them came back each summer to help. Some of them had just started a two year program. Despite their varying backgrounds and lengths of time they were staying, they all were very obviously Christian.
When I say they were very obviously Christian, I don't mean that in a bashing way. I mean they seemed like they were part of their own culture. It is interesting how Christianity has become a subculture in modern day. We have our own music, our own lingo, our own jokes, our own religious sites, our own connection of networks, our own books, etc. These people were obviously American Christians just by how they were acting.
Some people would see this as great. We were called to be different from the world--and these people are. They are not indulging in what the world indulges in. They are not speaking like the world. They are not acting like the world. They are not partaking what the world likes.
However, even at the dig site, this subculture has become a problem--and I don't mean in a God honoring way. This same Christian group has helped with the dig in years past. One time, they uncovered an ancient stele with a pagan god on it from the 9th or 10th century BC. This was a huge find for Bethsaida because it showed that it was inhabited by pagans before the Jews came in and made it a Jewish town in the 1st century AD. Our dig leader was so happy, he wanted to see it cleaned up. He asked the Christian leader-lady to pick it up, dust it off, and wash it off so they could see it better. She looked up at him with a look of horror on her face and said (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously), “I am sorry, but I just can’t. I can’t touch a pagan statue like this. I feel like the Holy Spirit will be grieved in me and I will defile my body by touching it.”
Our dig site leader (a secular Jew) looked down at her with a look of utter confusion on his face and said (again, I'm paraphrasing here), “But you have been touching it before as you were digging it out.”
“Yes,” she said, “but that was before I knew what it was.”
Our dig leader started to get angry, “Why does that make a difference now?!” He composed himself and said, “Fine, I will have someone else do it,” and he called for someone else to grab the stele.
As this story was related to me (because I wasn’t there), the dig leader was just beside himself. He was very upset with her and didn’t understand why she refused to do it. Being a secular Jew, he understood the purity laws and such, but she had already touched it and was messing with it before he came over and told her what it was. Why did it make a difference then?
I can sympathize with both parties. I understand her conviction to keep herself clean and pure. But at the same time, I don’t understand why she could no longer touch it after she knew what it was. Plus, she was working on a dig site where we find stuff like this all the time. From what we know, Bethsaida was predominantly pagan until the Jews came in, then was predominantly Jewish. There is no evidence it ever became Christian, even if Peter, Philip, and Andrew were from this area. From what we are finding, there is more evidence to believe the area stayed largely Jewish. There is so far no evidence of anything Christian in the area.
But that event wasn’t the only one. Someone in our group brought up some conversation involving bisexuals. I was not present, but I did hear the end of the conversation (when I got there) when the leader-lady say in a very condemning tone, “Okay! That’s enough! We don’t need to talk about this subject. Thank you!” Our group members were taken aback. From what I could hear (which was very little), they weren’t talking about anything graphic or detailed; they were just talking. It became obvious she was very uncomfortable with this topic and told us to stop talking about it.
To me, as a Christian, it was very rude. She was in so many words demanding that we talk about what she wants to talk about, not what we were talking about. I thought I was just being all huffy-puffy (like I normally am), but when I asked some other Christians on the sight, they said they were getting annoyed with the other group too.
This group was not just an isolated event. I run into this problem in college all the time. Christians today have become a subculture that is not relevant to the world anymore. I have heard more jokes bashing the Christian lifestyle, Christian radio, Christian music, or Christian talk shows than I have before while I am in college.
This is not persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who persecute you on my behalf” (Matthew 5:11, emphasis mine). These people were not bashing the Christ-aspect of the what they believed; they were making fun of a subculture that seemed to want to separate itself from society. Those who made fun of the Christian subculture looked at the Christian subculture much like the Amish—only these same people give the Amish more respect than they do the Christians, because the Amish way of life seems to make sense to them.
Nowhere did Jesus say that we had to separate ourselves from the world. Nowhere did Jesus try to form His own clique or start His own club. He didn’t invent His own rules and expect people to follow them. He spoke love. He spoke truth. He shared life with people. He never expected anyone to change their opinions or way of thinking before following Him.
What He did expect was trust and surrender. You had to let go of what you were holding onto so tightly (like in the story of the rich young ruler) and let Jesus change you. He never expected us to change ourselves; He expected us to let Him change us in His time.
Why do we divide ourselves? Why are we afraid to get dirty? Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty. He went to where the sinners were. You can still get down in the trenches of spiritual warfare and keep your heart pure and not corrupted.
Remember when you are witnessing to people to be sensitive to them. Don’t make them be sensitive to you. Keep your heart locked tight in Christ and don’t let anything corrupt it. But sometimes, we can give a little for the sake of being an example to others. Don’t let legalism tie you down. Serve God with strength and valor. God bless!
Following His Call,