Day 23: Primum nil nocere?

Luke 4:16-30 (AD 27)

1.         Jesus read a prophecy from the Old Testament and told the congregation in the synagogue that all the blessings God spoke about were being fulfilled in their day.

RESULT: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (v.22).

2.         Jesus then pointed out that God had previously blessed the Gentiles, and not the Jews, when God’s messenger to the Jews was rejected by them, implying that he too was being rejected, and God’s blessing was going to go to Gentiles (ref 1 Kings 17-18).

RESULT: “All the people were furious…they drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff” (v.28-29).

Bear in mind Jesus wasn’t just ‘some dude’ – Jesus pointed out that they had heard about his healing of the official’s son. But that was irrelevant. Who Jesus was? Also irrelevant. What mattered is that Jesus’ view, which they didn’t understand because they hadn’t waited for an explanation, was noxious and nonsense and must be eliminated by killing Jesus. The extreme of their reaction was directly related to the determination with which they clung to their nationalistic idol.

Often we struggle to tell people the truth, because we’re afraid of the relational consequences. We also, all of us, have plenty of experience of obnoxious people who love to tell us their perception of the truth either with the obvious intent to hurt us, or not having the slightest care if they do.

Upsetting someone can then easily become, in our minds, a breach of primum nil nocere (‘to do no harm’), a foundational principle in bioethics and a root of the Hippocractic Oath taken by doctors. Except the meaning has become twisted, conflating ‘harm’ with ‘upset’. Hence for many people, if what you do or say upsets someone, it was by definition the wrong thing to say, and is ‘hate speech’.

Are we afraid to tell the Nazarene synagogue attendees of our lives, the truth about Jesus? Are we putting relational comfort ahead of loving people by lovingly telling them the truth?

And do we have a tendency to be like those Nazarenes, ourselves? Do we filter what God says in his Word through the lens of our own preferences and predilections; hobbies, habits and attitudes?

Every one of us has a tendency to both of those things, and we need to walk closely with Jesus in order to hear him and to speak on his behalf.


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