Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?
- Luke 9:54, NIV
I read these words yesterday morning as part of my devotional. This is what the disciples ask Jesus after they have been refused hospitality on their way to Jerusalem while stopping in a Samaritan village. The Samaritans and the Jews were not on good terms, to say the least. But even in those circumstances, asking Jesus if he wanted them to call on God to zap the unhospitable Samaritans seems like a bit much.
And yet . . . there is still some of that today when we look around at our world. The buzzword now is "polarized." Every newscast, every speech, every editorial makes reference to how "polarized" we are as a nation. Some believe this is only getting worse. When we see (or participate in) the confrontation between opposing sides, it is not too farfetched that one side or the other would call down lightening to take out the opposition -- if they could.
Thank goodness Jesus does not say in this story from Luke's gospel, "Sure, go for it!" On the contrary, Luke says that Jesus "rebukes" the disciples for suggesting this. In Eugene Peterson's translation of The Message, Jesus says, "Of course not!" It seems so obvious doesn't it? Well, maybe not to everyone.
When we encounter those who oppose us, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, forgive them, and turn the other cheek - things like that. I know it is hard not to want some negative consequences for those who seem to be on the other side of issues (and who are mean to boot!) But calling down lightening only seems to bring on more lightening. Who knows who will get hit the next time? Lightning bolts are not the most accurate dispensers of justice.
So next time you feel wronged, take a moment to count to ten. Pray for your persecutor, as hard as that may be. You may even try to forgive him or her. If that is difficult, just remember that is what Jesus did on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34, NIV)
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for showing us grace and mercy, whether or not we know what we are doing. Help us to show the same kind of grace and mercy to others - especially when it is hard to do so. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.