Malina and Rohrbaugh’s excellent summation of this vital topic from their Synoptic Gospel Social Science Commentary follows this short introduction.
Every culture has a variation of this classic doctrine: those in your Ingroup, and those in your Outgroup. As relational human beings made in the image of our Creator, we naturally move people in and out based on their behavior and our trust level.
There are also two kinds of “friends” that Jesus clearly described. First, John 3.16 lost pagans in the outgroup (friend of sinners – Luke 7.34), and special insider Ingroup friends (the apostle John – John 13.23), both loved by God. And second, sadly, there are those who were once ingroup but through betrayal and mistrust, now belong to the “rejected friend” status like Judas (Matt. 26.50, also Matt 20.13, 22.12). These are loved too but exceptional wrath abides on them (Hebrew 10.26-31). The last state is worse than the first (2 Peter 2.20).
Even our brother David in the Psalms laments this movement from his ingroup to outgroup. But notice how he petitions God for their destruction through a curse (imprecatory anger), now that they are evil and his enemy.
Psalm 55:12-15 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, Then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend; we who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng. Let death come deceitfully upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol, for evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.
The modern church falls over in two ways with this. They either tolerate everything and absolutely never practice real church discipline. Or they split at the drop of a hat over anything and everything refusing to preserve the unity of the Spirit and faith. Both are a heinous sin to the Lord…and often lead to being erased from the Book of Life (Rev. 3).
Jesus’ Special Ingroup
Invited by Jesus Christ into His special and unique “Ingroup” means leaving your other primary ingroup regarding new loyalties and commandments. Jesus claims people were either for Him or against Him (Luke 11.23). There is no middle ground. When I became a Christian, my family only tolerated me, and at times would not speak to me due to my life and witness. In many cultures, like Muslim, a new believer may lose their very life…and certainly be persecuted in ways many westerns do not know at this time.
Personally, I have very few friends in my primary ingroup. Most people I know are really self-serving, selfish serving strangers to me, although they may say they are my “friend.” They do not follow the real God, and scorn those who do. They are not holy. They carry no cross. They are irreconcilable. They do not really suffer. That they do not love God is obvious by their polluted fruit. They are thrown into the fire. (Matt. 7.16-20, John 15.6). The God they follow looks like themselves. Emile Durkheim, a pagan, rightly prophesied as much in 1912 in his last work called The Elementary Forms of The Religious Life.
Be Wary of Most Ingroups
I use extreme care choosing any other ingroup I may desire to join. Bad company, declares Paul, corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15.33). Since I reside in America in the west, the overwhelming message is the American Gospel…which is no gospel at all according to the Word, and is 100% humanistic to boot. I do not and will not enter into any group that identifies with amusement, wealth (mammon), institutional church that stands apart from one faith and one body, etc.
Here is a quote from the authors.
By U.S. standards the dealings of ancient Mediterranean people with outgroup persons appear indifferent, even hostile…Strangers can never be ingroup members. Should they take the initiative in the direction of “friendly” relations, only the social ritual of hospitality (being “received” or “welcomed”) extended by an ingroup member could transform them into “friends” of the group. Because of ingroup cohesion in the culture, the biggest obstacle to a person’s son’s joining a faction such as the Jesus group was the family, the primary ingroup. Besides pointing up trouble with Jesus’ own family (Mark 3), the Synoptics report Jesus’ words about the family as a hindrance to his task (Matt 10:34-36; Luke 12:51-53).
Here is their whole treatise on this…
Ingroup & Outgroup – By Malina & Rohrbaugh
Ingroup and Outgroup…References in the Synoptic narrative to special information for those close to Jesus that is unavailable to outsiders (Mark 4:11-12; Matt 13:11; Luke 8:10), or Jesus’ insistence that the world is divided into two groups, those with us and those against us (Luke 11:23), are indicative of a fundamental Mediterranean perspective.
One of the basic and abiding social distinctions made among first-century Mediterraneans was that between ingroup and outgroup persons. A person’s ingroup generally consisted of one’s household, extended family, and friends. The boundaries of an ingroup were fluid; ingroups could and did change, sometimes expanding and sometimes contracting. Persons from the same city quarter or village would look upon each other as ingroup when in a “foreign” location, while in the city quarter or village, they may be outgroup to each other.
For Jesus to have a house in Capernaum is indicative of where his network of ingroup relations was constituted. The first persons he calls to take part in his movement are from Capernaum, and that they so quickly respond is indicative of the ingroup network there (see Mark 1:16-20 par.). Ingroup members are expected to be loyal to each other and to go to great lengths to help each other (Luke 11:5-9). They are shown the greatest consideration and courtesy; such behavior is rarely, if ever, extended to members of outgroups. Only face-to-face groups where a person can express concern for others can become ingroups (Matt. 5:43-48). Persons interacting positively with each other in ingroup ways, even when not actual kin, become “neighbors.”
The term refers to a social role with rights and obligations that derive simply from living socially close to others and interacting with them – the same village or neighborhood or party or faction. Neighbors of this sort are an extension of one’s kin group (read Prov 3:39; 6:29; 11:9, 12; 16:29; 25:9, 17, 28; 26:19; 27:10, 14; 29:5). From one perspective, the whole house of Israel were neighbors; hence the injunction to “love one’s neighbor as oneself” (Lev 19:18) marked a broad ingroup, whether the injunction was carried out or not. The parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:29-37) seems to address the question of who belongs in Israel.
The boundaries of the ingroup were shifting ones. The geographical division of the house of Israel in the first century was Judea, Perea, and Galilee. What all the residents with allegiance to the Jerusalem Temple had in common was “birth” into the same people, the house of Israel. But this group quickly broke into three ingroups, the Judeans, Pereans, and Galileans. Jesus was not a Judean but a Galilean, as were his disciples. It was Judeans who put Jesus the Galilean to death. And all of these geographically based groups had their countless subgroups, with various and changing loyalties.
According to the story, Jesus shifted from the tiny hamlet of Nazareth to the much larger village of Capernaum (see Mark 2:1, where Jesus of Nazareth was at home). To outsiders, all these ingroups fused into one and were called Judeans. Similarly, the house of Israel could look at the rest of the world as one large outgroup, “the (other) nations” (=Gentiles). Paul sees himself as a Judean, coming from Tarsus, and living according to Judean customs, called “Judaism,” with allegiance to the God of Israel in Jerusalem in Judea. Most such Judeans never expected to move back to Judea.
They remained either resident aliens or citizens in the places of their birth. Yet they continued to be categorized by the geographical location of their original ethnic roots. The reason for this was that the main way for categorizing living beings, animals and humans, in the first-century Mediterranean was by geographical origins. Being of similar geographical origin meant to harbor ingroup feelings even if long departed from that place of origin. And that place of origin endowed group members with particular characteristics.
The coalitional boundaries of ingroups and outgroups are well marked in the Gospels with Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, disciples of John, disciples of Jesus. By asking a person for a favor, one in effect extended to the person an implicit invitation for membership in one’s ingroup. Thus as Jesus set up his faction by recruiting core members with the invitation “Follow me,” they, of course, expected something in return for complying (Mark 10:28-30; Matt. 19:27-29). Ingroup members freely ask questions of one another that would seem too personal to North Americans.
These questions reflect the fact that interpersonal personal relationships, even “casual” ones, tend to involve a far greater lowering of social and psychological boundaries in first-century Palestine than in U.S. experience. In dealing with outgroup members, almost “anything goes.” By U.S. standards the dealings of ancient Mediterranean people with outgroup persons appear indifferent, even hostile.
Strangers can never be ingroup members. Should they take the initiative in the direction of “friendly” relations, only the social ritual of hospitality (being “received” or “welcomed”) extended by an ingroup member could transform them into “friends” of the group. Because of ingroup cohesion in the culture, the biggest obstacle to a person’s son’s joining a faction such as the Jesus group was the family, the primary ingroup. Besides pointing up trouble with Jesus’ own family (Mark 3), the Synoptics report Jesus’ words about the family as a hindrance to his task (Matt 10:34-36; Luke 12:51-53)…
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
Marc and Walk Worthy are supported in part by the body of Jesus Christ. Please consider donating on a regular basis:
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org