Bigot or Skeptic? More in Common than you Think.
The Choice We Need to Make
When we look at Nathaniel – one of Jesus' disciples – we have the choice to interpret his response to news of the Messiah in either way.
You could focus on the location-based dismissal “What good can come from Nazareth?” and conclude that there is the presence of bigotry in Nathaniel’s tone and response. This was the direction we went on Another Empty Conversation. Using the town a person lives in has been an easy way to claim superiority fore many people through the centuries. Bigotry is a terrible label to hang around the neck of a person and it should not be applied without good reason. Always try to find another alternative before resting on the conclusion of bigotry.
For instance, if you dig deeper into the text and you can uncover that Nathaniel was a fairly well-studied fellow. If you are, by nature, a studious person it can be difficult for you to easily accept the claim that the Messiah is right down the street. This is especially true if the topics of Messianic history is your primary field of research. Taking this point of view and you can see how Nathaniel could simply be a skeptical researcher who wanted to be sure of the truth before he accepted the evidence.
Culturally there is a vast difference between skepticism and bigotry. But they do share one common trait – neither copes well with information they do not understand. Information is the barrier to relationship. The bigot relies on preconceived notions of people to make pre-determined judgments. They are blocked by the information they have – correct or incomplete- from getting to know new groups of people. The skeptic relies on information to pre-judge people as well but instead of relying on incomplete data they are forced to fulfill every requirement before they accept a belief or in the case of Jesus – a person.
It needs to be pointed out that Jesus stepped in and confronted the bigotry and/or skepticism and provided an answer that Nathaniel could not refute. “I saw you while you were under the fig tree” was a way past the facts and figure. It spoke to Nathaniel where he was, both literally and figuratively. Jesus was saying, like he says to us all, I know where you are and I want you to follow me.