Burning Down the Village

There’s a wonderful passage of Scripture found in Luke (9:51-55) where the people residing in a Samaritan village rejected Jesus. Two of his disciples (James and John) took umbrage to those folks. Their knee-jerk reaction was to call fire from heaven to burn down the village.

This pericope reminds me of two things that still occur. One is a very simple truth—many people continue to reject Jesus. We all know that fact very well.

The second is not quite so simple, I’m afraid. Numero dos is the fact that many Christians are still happy to burn down the village. We’ve got too many would-be pyromaniacs running around the church.

Interestingly enough, when Jesus sent advance men out ahead of his preaching tours, he gave them specific instructions as to what actions to take in case of rejection. Those instructions were simply to shake the dust off their feet and move on (Luke 9:5). James and John either forgot those instructions or merely got carried away. It’s no wonder Jesus nicknamed them the “Sons of Thunder.”

If you look at the account of this event, you’ll notice Jesus quickly denied their request to burn down the village. The Bible tells us he rebuked them, and they then went on their not-so-merry way.

“They all had bad attitudes.”

In fact, as we read through the gospels, we find one of the things Jesus seemed to hate the most was when someone copped an attitude. I could site all manner of Scripture to back that statement. One could argue that was his big problem with people like the Pharisees. They all had bad attitudes. When James and John suggested the calling down of fire, I’m sure he was wholly displeased.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of Christians around to this day who are quick to do the same as the aforementioned disciples. They aren’t really keen on anyone who disagrees with them. When they run across someone like that, they call down the fire.

Usually, the fire is in the form of a tongue-lashing or a put down. It sometimes gets worse than that, but that’s bad enough. I can’t imagine Jesus being happy about any attitude that ends up in hatred or reputation bashing. Yet, that’s often what we see today.

Jesus was quick to point out that we shouldn’t take it personally. If someone disagrees with our Christianity, they are ultimately rejecting him (not us). In Luke 10:16 he said this: “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” He said this almost 2000 years ago. We still don’t seem to get it.

Shake Off the Dust

We’ve got to learn to shake the dust off our feet and move on. Walking around with a chip on our shoulders just doesn’t cut it. It’s certainly not Christ-like.

I suppose the hard part is deciding when to move on. We hate to be quitters. On the other hand, there’s no sense wearing out our welcome.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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