He is out of his mind

August 27, 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,

The good news today is from Mark 3:20-21.

He came home. Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

What were Jesus’ relatives so upset about? He had angered the religious authorities, scribes and Pharisees, by flouting sabbath regulations. He was preaching buy his own authority, not in the rabbinic tradition, he displayed miraculous powers of healing and exorcising, he attracted frenzied crowds, and he had pulled together a bizarre group of disciples. In short, he was not living according to their expectations. His behavior couldn’t be explained by any conventional standards. Was he causing them embarrassment? Or perhaps even fear that they would be drawn into his conflict with authorities? Was he in some ways irrational, maybe even out of his “right” mind?

It seems that all these questions they may have had were based in fear. Yet he seemed to be fearless. What a different way to live — without fear! Richard Rohr has written that “do not be afraid” or some variation is the most common phrase in both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures. For good reason, it seems. Fear is living outside of God’s love, not trusting that He is with us at all times and both desires our communion with Him in life as well as our reunion with Him in death. There are times as his own death approached that Jesus experienced fear; he was human after all. But he always turned to His Father for strength and courage and determination.

The other thing about fear is that I usually look to others as the source of my discomfort instead of facing the fear, the demons inside me. That’s what Jesus’ relatives were doing. He was the cause of their uneasiness, not their own fears. He was to blame for their shame or embarrassment or danger. Jesus came to transform my life, to change my relationship with God. To a large extent that means facing my fears, even embracing them, in the firm belief that God will enable me to overpower them. Overpower them so that God’s love drives my behavior so that I can be compassionate and loving and forgiving toward others. When I let my fears drive my behavior I act out in ways that are judging, condemning, prejudiced, vengeful, and harmful. It’s so clear when I think about it at times like now in reading these verses, but my fears arise so quickly that I often react instead of turning to God and trusting in HIs love. I forget to ask how I can respond from a place of love instead of fear. It makes so much difference when I can. It brings peace instead of conflict or disharmony. It usually evokes a loving response instead of defensiveness or blaming.

That’s the transformation that Jesus was cultivating in his disciples so that they would be with him always and act as he would have. That’s what it means for me to be a disciple. It would be a great sign of my transformation if those who know me, family included, were to say, “He is out of his mind.”



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