Jesus’ attentiveness to desperate impoliteness
I was in a cafeteria the other night. Someone behind me spoke up in a very loud voice. I watched the reactions of those in the cafeteria. Everyone I could see turned to look at the one who spoke so loudly—most seemed to have scowls on their faces.
We tend to be irritated by those who are noisy or impolite—by those who “make a scene.” We want people to speak quietly, to be polite, mannerly, and demure.
But sometimes excess politeness can be deadly.
In his book, Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes how good manners may have led to some deadly plane crashes. Summarizing his ideas for Fortune magazine, he writes about a Korean Airlines crash: “What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical…. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.”
Gladwell argues that amidst a series of misfortunes, including bad weather, part of the blame for the crash of Korean Air Flight 801 into a hill in Guam in 1997, killing 223 people, was due to the fact that the co-pilot was afraid to question the poor judgment of the pilot.
There are times and places for impoliteness. When life is on the line, it is better to “make a scene” than to be mannerly and demure.
In his book, Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli writes, “People who are desperate are rude, frantic, and reckless. Desperate people are explosive, focused, and uncompromising in their desire to get what they want. Someone who is desperate will crash through the veil of niceness. The New Testament is filled with desperate people, people who barged into private dinners, screamed at Jesus until they had his attention, or destroyed the roof of someone’s house to get to him” (p. 34).
He adds, “Jesus responds to desire. Which is why he responded to people who interrupted him, yelled at him, touched him, screamed obscenities at him, barged in on him, crashed through ceilings to get to him” (p. 31).
As Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho (Mark 10:46-52), a blind man named Bartimaeus shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The people in the crowd rebuked him and told him to “be quiet.” But their rebuke only made him more desperate. “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
Jesus was not put off by the man’s impoliteness. Instead, Jesus perceived the genuine desire behind the man’s desperate shouting, and He was drawn to that desire. Jesus affirmed the man’s faith, and He healed the man.
Perhaps, like Jesus, we should look for the genuine desire behind the desperate impoliteness we encounter in people from time to time.