February 01, 2013
Written by Daniel Hazard

Excerpt from John 1:43-51

"Nathanael asked Jesus, 'Where did you get to know me?' Jesus answered, 'I saw you under the fig tree…' Nathanael replied, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God!'"

William C. Green

The demand for recognition is a basic human need. Its refusal is a common source of anger - or indifference.

In debates about whether the church's stance on social issues is too liberal, or too conservative, I've found that most important is who feels recognized and who does not. I've seen anger and rejection on both sides become less divisive and more conciliatory when one position doesn't dominate the discussion. Those indifferent to participating because they believe their voice doesn't matter or they're reluctant to speak out are more inclined to take part when they are recognized as counting.

A lot of indifference or hard feeling in or toward the church, among colleagues, and between spouses and partners, can be overcome - or become manageable - when others feel recognized, listened to, and respected.

Nathanael had been skeptical about Jesus, wondering how anything good can come out of a rather obscure town, Nazareth. He had heard of the high acclaim Jesus received as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. That meant nothing to him - until he felt recognized by Jesus. The jolt of that recognition changed his life.

Maybe we could think of someone we could do a better job recognizing, listening to, and respecting. That transforms indifference or anger into understanding that can change lives.


God, as you know and recognize me, hearing my cry and knowing my need, so may I respond to others, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

About the Author
William C. Green is Vice-President for Strategy and Development, Moral Courage Project, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the author of 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving.

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