Familiarity breeding contempt is a present missional danger. Let us do a quick personal missional-check:
Has your familiarity with the lyrics to the hymns, many times, resulted in you singing without experiencing the life in the hymns?
Has your familiarity with the practical applications of a Bible story, caused you to miss out on many of the powerful implications the story should have had on your life, family and church?
Has your familiarity with all the things that Jesus said, led you to very rarely think about all the things that Jesus actually meant?
Our awe of God can become unfamiliar as the things of God become more familiar hence, the need to be rescued from this yoke of familiarity that breeds contempt. The resurrection miracle and the healing of the woman with issue of blood that Jesus did at Capernaum did not secure him acceptance, “And He went out from there.” Jesus went out from Capernaum with His Galilean ministry. Capernaum failed to take responsibility for believing. The biblical doctrine of salvation combines divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God calls us and we must respond willingly. In Christianity, God is the initiator and author of our salvation and the only thing we can do is respond by receiving Christ’s free offer (Jn 3:16).
Jesus, born in Bethlehem lived with his family in his hometown, Nazareth. The sacrificial ministry of Jesus, the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon was not driven by peer or political pressure and agenda. Jesus was not driven by popular response or crowd actions in doing His Father’s business of preaching the gospel with the message of repentance and faith. There was no home field mission advantage for Jesus just because of the familiarity, the knowledge his home people had about him. Home field mission is declining and failing today because of crowd actions, pride, contempt, unbelief, peer, political pressure and agenda. The tragedy of the church today is the tragedy of lack of faith. Contempt in this context is a pattern of attitude, behaviour, often towards an individual or group and ideology. The word contempt from the Latin word contemptus means “scorn.” Home field mission of Jesus’ familiarity at his hometown, their knowledge and awareness of Him breeds pride, scorn, disdain, disrespect, denigration, mockery, and derision.
For Jesus, it was an uneventful home mission reception at Nazareth. The home mission rejection of the evidence of Jesus’ teaching and miracle takes offence because of moral and spiritual blindness of His people despite overwhelming evidence. The home mission rejection and demeaning of the evidence of Jesus’ person and character was based on their familiarity with Jesus’ skill set, thereby saying ‘is not this the carpenter?’ The pride among the home field mission crowd suggested that Jesus is one of the commoners, the disrespected in the community. The home field mission rejection of Jesus was also based on their familiarity with Jesus’ mother, ‘the son of Mary.’ The home crowds were still living and carrying the rumour, ‘circulated during Jesus’ lifetime, that He was illegitimate’ (Jn 4:41; 8:41; 9:29). ‘The son of Mary’ was based on the familiarity, disdain, denigration and pride by the Jesus’ home mission crowds because ‘a man was called the son of his mother only when his father was unknown.’ Jesus’ home mission crowds were also familiar with His brothers and sisters. The climax of Jesus’ home mission rejection was in amazing home mission unbelief, “And they took offense at Him. The home mission crowds took offence at the Gospel because of the hardness of their hearts in such ‘that they disbelieve even in the presence of evidence.’
Familiarity breeds contempt in that those who know you the best believe you the least, “And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household.’ In Aesop’s fable about a fox and loin, he concluded, “that familiarity makes even the most frightening things seem quite harmless.” The name of Jesus Christ to his home field mission crowds because of their familiarity to Him was used every day as a curse word.
The story of Samson warns us that familiarity can make even the most frightening things seem quite harmless” but the result is deadly. Samson, dedicated by God, lost dedication to God. He diluted the original vision that drove him. Success distorted him and his weakness went unaddressed. In Samson, we see a picture where love is not love. In Samson, we see an image of a church or a Christian used to God’s power and anointing. Samson’s benighted love affair with the beautiful Delilah resonates today with the church in love and sleeping with the world on the same bed. The world is after making the church powerless, making the church gullible as well as superhuman financially and materially. What Samson’s of today need to remember is that their greatness does not, and will not lie in the magnitude and adequacy of our equipment, ‘but in the degree to which it is true to its fundamental conviction – the personal, conscious appropriation of the Life and Passion of the Risen Christ.’ Samson’s familiarity with his consecration and extraordinary strength which lay in his luxuriant hair was abused because, linked to his special divinely ordained role, he scorned certain prohibitions. Delilah caused Samson to shave off the seven locks of hair, and his strength went from him (Judg. 13). The Good News for us today is that, if we repent the hair, the power will grow again in the church.
Familiarity that breeds contempt points to disobedience in the church. Familiarity that breeds contempt results to negative ministry impact. Unbelief and rejection denied Jesus’ home mission crowds benefits of potential ministry, healing and growth. Jesus remains faithful and powerful but He could do no home mission miracle because ‘to have worked miracles where faith was absent would … have been merely to have aggravated men’s guilt and hardened them against God.’
The shocking unbelief at Jesus’ home mission not only diverted teaching ministry, it spread ‘the hardness of the human heart.’ The book of Hebrew warns us against unbelief, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Jesus was a ‘stone of stumbling’ to His home mission crowds because of their unbelief (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Peter 2:8). Jesus’ missional statement based on the outcome of his visit to Nazareth set the missional agenda and itinerant teaching ministry for the twelve ‘on their first trial missionary journey.’
Jesus was rejected in ‘His own country, and His disciples followed Him’ (Mark 6:1). The lectionary reading from Mark 6 is comprised of two stories – the rejection of Jesus in his hometown (vv.1-6) and the sending of the twelve (vv. 7-13). Mark connects them in vv.6-7, by having Jesus leave his hometown and go around teaching to the surrounding villages, then sending the twelve to go out as well (v 2).
Today, the crowds are bleeding at homes, churches and nations, they are asking and saying ‘to one another, Then who can be saved?’ (Mk 10:26). The crowds in our families, churches and nations need salvation, not sweet talk. In order to control and put the crowd under the bondage of unbelief, the chief priest and the scribes ‘kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching (Mk 11:18). The greatest obstacle killing of the gospel today is in the church especially, the chief priest and the scribes. God is saying to the church, the Sabbath has come, let there be revival of teaching and preaching undiluted Word of God. We are the followers of the Carpenter, Jesus, our Foreman. The lesson for us in the lectionary text as a couplet, is that ‘they show that when Jesus is rejected among his own folk, the twelve are empowered to go and bear the message, as well as to cast out demons and to heal (Mk 6:13). This rejection-leading-to-new-ministry is the same pattern of 1:14-15 when Jesus began his ministry after the arrest of John.’
Let us thank God for His sovereign gracious power that draws people into fellowship with Him. Let us pray for those who are yet to take responsibility and respond to the Gospel call with evidences before them.