Wednesday August 26, 2020
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[d] the Son of Man.”
Nathanael, before he met Jesus, thought it impossible that Jesus could be the Messiah or anyone else of Importance, because he was from Nazareth. Nate judged Jesus based on his neighborhood, his implied upbringing and heritage. He had an “implicit bias” toward the people of Nazareth, and toward Jesus by default. The Perception Institute defines implicit bias like this:
“Thoughts and feelings are ‘implicit’ if we are unaware of them or mistaken about their nature. We have a bias when, rather than being neutral, we have a preference for (or aversion to) a person or group of people. Thus, we use the term ‘implicit bias’ to describe when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge.”
We all have implicit biases. It is natural and part of human nature. In fact, our brains need to categorize people, so we can process all the information coming at us at any one time. To know without thinking that a person is familiar or safe is a good thing. The problem is, we can be socialized to put people into categories where they don’t belong. Did Nathanael know a lot of people from Nazareth? Did he know one person and based his assumption on that, or had he heard from others that the people of Nazareth were untrustworthy, incapable, etc.? Our brains are capable of overcoming implicit biases, but we have to recognize them, own them, and consider where they came from.
The interesting thing here is how Jesus responded. He praised Nathanael as a man of high character. He invited him to be a disciple. Jesus surprised Nate with his knowledge, invited him into a deeper relationship, and affirmed him as a good man. Despite the pre-judgement Nathanael offered, Jesus pulled the best out of Nate, and set high expectations on him at the same time.
We are all flawed. We all have work to do. Just like our friend Nate, we all judge people based on their skin color, clothes, job, education, sex, etc. Yet Jesus says we can do better. He sees the best in us and calls it out. Despite our failings and mistakes, Jesus sees himself in us, the image of God in our souls. Perhaps we all need to examine our biases, and rethink where we can do better. And thank God, Jesus is here to help us.
What sort of implicit biases do you need to examine? What is Jesus calling out of you that is better than you’re doing right now?
Prayer for Today
Dear Lord, you call us out to be better. You call us into a deeper relationship with you. Help us find our way toward you, toward wholeness, life to the full, peace, and our truest selves. We long to serve you with al that we are and all that we have. Guide us in this endeavor individually and collectively. Let all we do be holy and pleasing to you. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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