Punching for Jesus
Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them? Luke 9:54
I’ve been guilty of picking fights in the name of my faith. Believing I was right, I’ve condescended, belittled, and just plain been a jerk to those who’ve disagreed with me. Because I felt I was on God’s side, I believed my behavior was justified. It’s been painful for me to learn that I can be right and still act completely wrong.
This is where the disciples found themselves in today’s passage. In the story, Jesus was rejected by some Samaritans, a people group the Jews considered to be half-bloods and unbelievers. Offended for Jesus, James and John asked Christ if he wanted them to smite the infidels. Believing they were motivated by love for God, they were actually indulging in their own bigotry and hatred. Objecting, Jesus rebuked them. I can only imagine his frustration. Have you learned nothing? I came to save people, not to destroy them. No, I don’t want you to smite them!
This is a common temptation for Christians. On God’s side, we believe ourselves to be right . . . about everything. Those who don’t believe as we do aren’t just opposing us. They’re defying God. Offended for God, we imagine ourselves to be his fist of truth. Forgetting Jesus command to love our enemies, we believe it’s our religious duty to throw punches for Jesus.
Not every Christian does this of course, but for many of us, it’s far easier to condemn others than it is to love and help them. Sometimes it’s simply easier to carry a picket sign than it is to provide assistance. Even when we decide we’re going to reach out a helping hand, it often comes with conditions. I’ll love you as long as you admit you’re wrong and I’m right. We want others to come to Christ, as long as they look and act just like us first.
Loving others doesn’t mean abandoning the truth but standing for truth doesn’t mean abandoning love either. Jesus didn’t back down from right and wrong. But neither did he want to kill the Samaritans for rejecting him.
Our job is to tell others what Christ has done for us. Not everyone wants to hear it. When rejected, we need to let go of our ego and just walk away. Jesus never asks us to hate others for him.