I was single when I moved to Elizabethton after living two years in Chicago. Shortly after arriving, my roommates and I thoroughly enjoyed a conversation with some Southern Belles. We left them with our standard northern goodbye, “See you guys later!” Unfortunately I distanced myself from some cute local girls in a hurry! Oops, I didn’t know that down south both genders were NOT grouped into the “guys category.”
When we were serving as missionaries in West Africa many years ago we were told to never touch anyone, or hand anyone anything, with our left hand. This is because in many developing countries people use their left hand exclusively for purposes of personal hygiene. Therefore, the left hand is considered dirty, even when it isn’t.
While we worked hard to avoid using our left hand, we never knew whether we were successful. Until we had our pictures developed. On a rare occasion when someone actually took a picture of me with my camera, they captured on film one of my many faux pas. I was paying someone with my left hand!
The camera not only caught my cultural blunder, it recorded the seller’s expression of surprise. He obviously wanted my money, he just wasn’t sure he wanted it that badly! I was so into the transaction that I totally missed the facial expression that should have clued me in on my faux pas.
I am encouraged that Christ’s disciples made their share of cultural blunders. Eating without doing a ceremonial hand washing, and threshing wheat in their hands and eating it on the Sabbath, to name just a couple.
In fact Christ Himself seemed to go out of His way to commit faux pas among the religious leaders of the day. Not only by breaking Sabbath traditions, but by being a friend of tax collectors, prostitutes, and other notable sinners. He talked to a Samaritan woman and spent a few days teaching in a Samaritan city. He disregarded the authority of the religious leaders of His day. He touched unclean lepers to heal them, and unclean dead people to bring them back to life.
His ultimate faux pas was to taunt the High Priest by claiming to be God, and then to appear helpless to stop His critics from crucifying Him. As He died, they mocked, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
He did not save Himself but died that He might save believers who could not save themselves! He paid a debt He did not owe that those who would believe in Him might receive a gift that they could never purchase! In the end His death and resurrection proved His divinity far more perfectly than saving His own life would have. His apparent faux pas became His triumphant touché!
Bruce Hendrich is pastor at Oak Street Baptist Church 804 Oak Street • Elizabethon, TN 37643 • 423.542.4022 • oakstreetbaptist.net