Saturday, April 02, 2011

Socializing At a Distance - Genesis 43:32

So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians, who ate with him, by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians.

As I read this verse, I count four separate groupings of diners: i. Joseph; ii. Joseph’s brothers; iii. the Egyptian servants or others who ate at the same time and in the same room; and iv. the Egyptian servants that likely ate later and/or in a different room.  I am reminded of how often a similar scene is repeated all through our history.  I’m reminded of the separation there was between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Christ.  And it goes further.  Sometimes the separation is between the clergy and laity; sometimes it is between male and female; sick and healthy; rich and poor; strong and weak; young and old.  And the list goes on.  When we separate like this while in the same room we may think we’re being open-minded to all having no prejudice in us, and in fact we may believe we are even building relationships.  In reality, nothing can be further from the truth.  We are only ‘socializing at a distance’.

Thinking about this concept of ‘socializing at a distance’, I reflect on the almost 100% of us who are so friendly to people of different economic, educational, or career status; or color; or ethnic background, etc., whenever we are at church worshiping or even in our various church committees, working right there beside them and valuing their contribution.  For all intents and purposes, we are united in Christ, or so it seems.  Yet the great majority of us still think twice about breaking bread with them in our house, or seeking to go out with them socially, or include them in our rather extensive invitation list for a party or a wedding.

This past weekend, one of my daughters and her husband were away on a business trip of his, and my wife and I took our three grandchildren to our church and Sunday school.  Young Elijah (almost six) indicated he was thrilled to go as we prepared and on the way to the church.  However, as we approached the room his age group was meeting in, he almost pulled a ‘180-degree’ turn and said, “I don’t want to go.”  I realized right away what happened.  He noticed that all three of the teachers in that room were of very dark skin and he was not comfortable with that.  Fortunately, they were very nice and also had some most interesting things for him to do right away.  In no time he was right at home and wanted to be the last one to leave at the end.  But the point was not lost on me.  My grandchildren needed more exposure to those that are different than we are. 

This verse in the Genesis story of Joseph, while it fairly describes the societal norms of his day, also points out for me that Jesus came several thousand years later to change all that.  Until we do so ourselves, in our own lives, and with our own families, we will not have allowed Him to do so as far as we’re concerned.

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