In the Gospel of John when the disciple Philip finds Nathanael to tell him about Jesus, Nathanael retorts with “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) This was first-century profiling and for sure it was around long before that. Profiling goes back to perhaps the Garden of Eden. Sin entered the world when self-will challenged God’s will and when “me, myself and I” are on the throne someone who is “other” is less-than and in comes all the evils of bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.
Profiling is a word we have heard quite a bit since the George Zimmerman trial began. He was on trial for the murder of a 17-year old African American young man, Trayvon Martin, who was on his way home from a trip to a convenience store. The verdict has been a cause of stinging pain around our country and there needs to be soul-searching and some action if we truly believe this is wrong and it has to stop. To do that we have to all own up to our profiling ways.
I am guilty of profiling. I attended a class reunion and saw some folks who I did not know that well during high school but who had done well for themselves. I asked one of them where he grew up. Since we attended a consolidated high-school that housed students from many strata of neighborhoods, people were pigeon-holed into their “class” based on the neighborhood. This classmate had done well in life and when he told me he was from the poorest part of the county I immediately felt that profiling “ping” go off in my head. Can anything good come from that neighborhood? Apparently so. He is one of the most successful graduates that ever came from that school.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth….just the Son of God….just the place where God chose to call home. Archeologists say that in Jesus’ day Nazareth could not have had more than 500 people in the town. It was 80 miles north of Jerusalem in the area of Galilee. There were no major roads, no trade routes, no waterways to bring commerce and culture. Yet that is exactly where God tends to dwell and do his “power-made-perfect-in-weakness” debut. God primarily works there because that is where people let God in more often. It is harder when people have too much stuff. They start thinking they don’t need God.
When we look at a person, we should not decide who they are by their ethnicity, class, gender, age or disability. If we do that we just might pass up the Savior of all humankind thinking he was nothing. Can we teach that to people? Can we get in small groups at our churches and homes and have these kinds of conversations so that kids don’t get killed, so that people in all of our God-created diverse goodness can be appreciated and loved for who they are? Can we learn from people who are different from us and in the learning grow personally and become more and more like Christ, who opened his arms of love to everyone?
Philip dismissed Nathanael’s profiling insult of Nazareth-dwellers by saying simply this: “Come and see.” Come and see what’s you are missing when you write off people who are different from you. Come and see and find out there is treasure there. Could be that these people that you are profiling are profiling you back and you can teach them about you as well. Find ways to get along, forgive, receive forgiveness and move on. Jesus did that. He did not reject Nathanael for his thoughtless prejudice. He invited him to be around the table and a part of a group of disciples who would ultimately carry the gospel to the next step. Former profilers can do amazing things. So there is hope for all of us in this tangled web that we call life and this complicated institution we call church. Come and see what people who are not like you are really like and be amazed, be transformed and that could be a way to honor the memory of Trayvon Martin.