Today we reading Luke 9. Click here for that chapter.
At the beginning of this lengthy chapter, Jesus told the disciples, “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet” (v. 5). Toward the end of this same chapter, Jesus sent messengers into a Samaritan village “to get things ready for him” (v. 52). I take that phrase to mean that Jesus was sending some of the people mentioned in yesterday’s devotional to prepare for Jesus’ arrival because he was going to stay and teach in that village for a while on his way to Jerusalem. According to verse 53, “the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” James and John were incensed by this rejection. Claiming the supernatural power that Jesus had conferred on them in verse 1, these two brothers “asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’”
Their question demonstrated the wrong spirit toward those who had rejected Jesus. When Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet in verse 5, the reason he gave was “as a testimony against them.” It was for their warning and rebuke that Jesus commanded the disciples to do this, not because they were angry or ready to send judgment on the towns that rejected them. That is why “Jesus turned and rebuked” James and John in verse 55. These men were not concerned about the lost souls of these Samaritans; they were ticked off at being rejected and wanted to show them some power!
Jesus surely will bring judgment on anyone who rejects him in this life. That is one of his promises and one of his roles when he returns. Until the day of judgment begins, however, Jesus calls us to show grace and mercy to his enemies, not to call for their destruction. We should keep this in mind when unbelievers mock our faith, or belittle us personally, or even persecute us. We should definitely testify to them about the judgment that Jesus will bring for these actions; that’s what he told the disciples to do in verse 5--testify against them. But we should be merciful and plead with them as we do this knowing that their eternal souls are at stake. So consider your heart and attitude toward those who are hostile to righteousness, to Christianity, Christians, or Christ. Don’t hope for and call for God’s judgment; tell them of God’s judgment but in a way that shows them how much we want to see God’s mercy in their lives.