Jesus lived His life on the border. We should, too.
A question often asked when we travel is, “Where are you from?” Here I invite you to rethink your answer. You may want to locate yourself exactly where you are, which is, like Jesus, on the border.
The historical Jesus was a Galilean. “Historical Jesus,” for any unfamiliar with the term, means most scholars and historians find enough historical and cultural evidence to support an actual person named Jesus existed. Specifically, this Galilean from Nazareth lived within the timetable established by the four gospels. Beyond this, theories diverge, but this simple fact remains: Jesus was from Galilee.
Galilee was a border town, literally and metaphorically, and those in this remote region had a certain impurity because of their location. If these people truly had a location, it was one we today would call “on the fence.” To us today, it would be like living in that odd space we might experience, for example, when on a road trip from the US to Canada, we drive past miles and miles of lonely land to your left and right that seems to have no identity. These Galileans didn’t belong anywhere which meant, in essence, that they belonged everywhere.
Interestingly, all kinds of people passed through this border town occupied by Roman soldiers. This impacted young Jesus. Virgilio Elizondo, a Roman Catholic priest and professor of theology, argues Jesus was of mixed race (a Mestizo), and suggests that encountering other cultures and peoples shaped the Son of God’s identity.
In her book The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leading Multi-racial and Multi-cultural Congregations, Jacqueline Lewis would agree that this upbringing uniquely and wonderfully influenced not only Jesus but also the early Christian church. Lewis maintains that Jesus, as a Galilean, grew up identifying with the most rejected—those who were on, or pushed beyond—the cultural borders of the day. Jesus’ love for the disallowed was His trademark. His dining mates, for example, were scandalous. The Galilean broke bread with sinners, tax collectors, and the ritually unclean.
Lewis speaks to what is true. “He spoke to the unspeakable; he touched the untouchable.”
We should do the same. For church to be “church” today, for faith to be actualized in a culture that needs love, let’s look into where we’ve come from, which, has a place on earth and in heaven.
Each of us is unique. While many of us have commonalities, each of us has something distinct, something that makes us “us.” Rather than homogenizing our separate histories, let’s realize and articulate them so that we can be even more present to all of those “different” than we are. That is what Jesus did. He found and honored the distinctness of an individual. His goal wasn’t to change them outright; rather, He wanted to enfold them in His love. When Jesus’ love—and His life—is within someone?
Oh. Yes. How. Good. This. Is.
If we want to follow Jesus, our directive is the same: In His name, love someone who, like all of us, is “different.” To do this love—to live into this love, His love—know that we are just like that Galilean. We are on the border, too.