There is an interesting story in Luke 9. Jesus and his disciples were refused entrance to a Samaritan Village. Two of the disciples, the sons of thunder, got real angry. “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?”(9:54)
Now that’s not an unusual response. That is normal today. I reckon I have not witnessed so much hatred in my lifetime as today. Our nation is divided. We call each other names. If you do not agree with someone today you have some options. (1) You destroy them on social media. (2) You call them prejudiced, discriminatory, bigots, or some other awful name. That becomes the basis of your argument. (3) You call for a boycott.
Is this how people handle disagreements today? Yes. Even though they may feel justified. James and John felt justified. Calling someone prejudice today is like the boy who cried wolf. It is so overused any time we want to add weight to our argument. That’s truth on both sides of the issue. Christians are boycotting Target stores because of their bathroom policy. Now, I’m sure Target is not prejudice against Christians. They do not hate people and do not want them to be hurt. But that is the argument. The NCAA is boycotting North Carolina over the same issue, but in the reverse. Now I am sure the people who oppose transgender bathrooms do not hate transgender people or gays, but that is the argument. People want to make the other side look bad and will say anything or do anything to prove their point. Even calling fire down from Heaven.
Who gets hurt? Not the people calling for the boycotts. Not even the people at the top who make the decisions. The people, like you and me. The employees of Target who depend on a paycheck. The people of North Carolina, even people who agree with the NCAA. They are punished. They suffer. It’s like we delight in making people suffer when we don’t get our way. We turn against our own flesh and blood, our fellow citizens. We are always right and everyone else is always wrong – on any issue. No longer can we discuss, disagree, vote differently, or even express an opinion on an issue without being called names or having fire called down on us. And In the extreme, we label people, riot, burn cities and cars. Did you hear that? Burn cities and cars. Hurt people with fire. Sounds just like James and John.
What was Jesus’ response to the sons of thunder? In Luke 9:55-56, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” I don’t think people realize what spirit they are of. If they could only realize that they are just caught up in the popular movement of the day and could truly see their spirit, they would be shocked. Some people would rather destroy lives. Isn’t that sad? They want to inflict damage on others. Of course, they always justify it. They are right. Others are wrong. I have good motives. Others are evil and prejudiced. Even sadder. We want to label people and put them in a box. Yes, some people may be inherently evil and nothing you say or do will change them. There are people at both extremes who may be filled with hate. Life will always have people like that. But most of us are in the middle somewhere. We follow our values and convictions. We don’t hate people. We simply disagree on an issue. Even if we are wrong sometimes, that does not mean we deserve fire to be called down on us.
I know many pastors who visit hospitals, nursing homes, jails, and anywhere there is a need. They do not care if the person is gay or straight, black or white. They do not ask an inmate why they are in prison. They simply love people and care about people. They want to save lives, not destroy them. If a person of any sexual orientation was lying in a hospital, who would most likely be there to minister to them? Certainly not the people calling for the boycotts. But a pastor who loves people, who knows about them because he frequently visits those places looking for an opportunity to “save lives”. They do not look for credit or payment. Often they do not receive any. They go, not for reward, but because they care about people. They don’t boycott them or call them names. They love and serve all people. These pastors may be on different sides of political issues. But they don’t spend their time bashing people on social media. I know because I see them. I know their spirit. They would rather save lives than seek to destroy them. How about today, we all stop calling fire down from heaven on our friends, coworkers, and fellow citizens – even those who disagree with us. I like Jesus’ response. Don’t you think that’s the best choice? You can disagree with people without labeling and name calling and punishing them. You can do like Jesus did. He rebuked that spirit and then just went to another village.