Beyond Stereotypes

By Mary Jane Chapin Chaignot


How do you break stereotypes and make new friends when others make fun of you for reaching beyond the "accepted" circle?


Yes. Let's imagine for a moment the situation at the Red Sea during the time of Moses. The children of Israel (roughly two million people) had just been liberated from Egypt. They were essentially trapped at the Red Sea. The sea was in front of them, the mountains were on their sides, and the chariots of Pharaoh were bearing down on them. Panic was creeping over them. The text says, "they were sore afraid - and they cried out to the Lord." (Ex. 14:10) Moses told them to "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord….The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." (Ex. 14:13) We all know, of course, that Moses raised his rod and the sea parted. The people, who moments ago were scared to death, walked safely across on dry land. These same people, not long thereafter, were hungry and thirsty, and again murmured against Moses. Meeting their needs, the Lord rained manna and quail down from the heavens as regularly as clockwork for as long as they needed it.

There is another wonderful story in II Kings involving Elisha. When warring against Israel, the king of Syria was having trouble getting the upper hand because Israel always seemed to know his plans in advance. He determined that Elisha was the one who was helping them. So the next morning, Elisha's servant awoke to find them surrounded by "horses and chariots and a great host." The servant cried out, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" Elisha responded by praying for his servant, "Lord I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see." (II Kings 6:17) The Lord responded by opening the servant's eyes. The result was that when the Syrians attacked, they were struck with blindness and were led into the Israelite city of Samaria. There the captives were given bread and water and sent home to their master. That was the end of Syria's attacks (at least for a while).

There are literally dozens more stories like this scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. They involve many of the main characters, including Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Jacob, Rachel, Joseph, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, and David. One of the main common denominators among these people is that they all prayed to the Lord, in one fashion or other. Oftentimes the next line reads, "The Lord heard their prayer…; the Lord remembered them…." Heartfelt prayer seems to be the key here. The same can be said of those who approached Jesus for healing. Some of them did so at great risk to themselves, but they were undaunted (lepers, Jairus, Syrophoenician woman, etc.).

There is, perhaps, no more explicit discussion of this topic than Jesus' own words in the Sermon on the Mount. He specifically says, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Matt. 6:25) And for those who didn't get it the first time, he repeats it in 6:31: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."

The bottom line here is that anxiety is pointless; trust in the Father is well-based. These words were spoken to people for whom starvation and poverty were commonplace. Perhaps because of this, Jesus reminds them of the Father's active care throughout His creation, even mentioning birds and wildflowers. Birds don't plant, fertilize, and harvest, yet they eat daily. Wildflowers grow in abundance without the benefit of human cultivation. How much more likely is it, then, the reasoning goes, that the Father would take care of those who call on Him by name? Put in this way, even the poorest person would have to admit that there are things more important than food and clothing. Jesus continues by saying that all the worrying in the world cannot add inches to our height. There are limits to what can be accomplished even by the best worriers.

So Jesus says, "Stop worrying." (The present imperative indicates the disciples had worried; now they are to stop it.) Jesus makes the point that "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." Jesus is not trying to convince us we don't have these needs; he is saying don't worry about them. Trust in the Father to supply them. Worry and stress should not be characteristics of the Father's children. However, (and there is a however here) this does not suggest that the child of God will be given these things automatically without effort or work or foresight. Rather, it is addressing the problem of anxiety, worrying, and stress. As trusting children, we must be open to the ideas and opportunities that the Father provides to meet our needs. The more we come to understand this, the more we can sing with Luke, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (12:22)