When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village. Luke 9.51-56This week I want to share some thoughts on the above passage that I believe are becoming more and more relevant to us as followers of Jesus in our current cultural climate. There are a few points I’d like to focus on as a foundation for this week’s eSight. James and John viewed the Samaritans as sinners or outsiders. The Samaritans were in a state of rejecting Jesus in this story and thereby provoked James’ and John’s response. James and John had an Old Testament story of God reigning down fire on the Samaritans as justification for their feelings toward the Samaritans and also as a basis for how they, too, should treat them. (See 2 Kings 1, where God rains down fire on the Samaritans through Elijah.) Here’s the kicker though. They were Biblical in assessing the Samaritans as objects of God’s wrath, but even while being Biblical, they were dead wrong about how God felt toward Samaritans. Jesus rebukes them, and says, “You don’t know what spirit you are of.” Their spirit toward the Samaritans didn’t reflect God’s attitude toward them at all. James and John’s attitude toward and treatment of the Samaritans, was more like that of the Accuser than it was God’s. They had an Old Testament story that they used to decide how they thought God felt toward the Samaritans but God Incarnate was standing right in front of them revealing that He felt very differently than they assumed He did. God had not come to this world to destroy people’s lives, but to save them. As His followers they were not to seek to consign people’s lives to destruction, but rather through humble servant love seek to save people’s lives as well.
But how does this all apply to us today? Here is my point, but I want to warn you ahead of time to, regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please just first hear me out. In love, please first listen before you judge what I’m saying.
Today when it comes to gays and lesbians, are we mimicking more the spirit of James and John or that of Jesus? Yes, we too have an Old Testament example of God raining fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah (See Genesis 18, 19; see also Ezekiel 16) that we use as a basis for assuming how God feels toward the LGBT community. We too have an Old Testament justification and basis for our feelings toward and treatment of a group of people we have judged as sinners and outsiders. But are we making the same mistake as James and John today? In deciding how we relate to homosexuals, are we too giving greater weight to an Old Testament story than we are giving to the life, work, and ministry of Jesus?
This week, I’m not debating what is or what is not sin. I’m not debating why Sodom was destroyed or not. These topics at this stage are irrelevant. Regardless of how we define sin, the greater question is what is the example Jesus set before us in relating to others regardless of how we morally evaluate them, whoever they may be? The Pharisees possessed a holiness that repelled sinners. Those judged as “sinners” or “outsiders” in Christ’s day steered clear of the Pharisees for fear of being judged. Jesus had a kind of holiness that attracted sinners, the outsiders, the marginalized.
We have to let the following question confront us. Today, are those we have judged as being “sinners” and “outsiders” being drawn to us because of our radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered, humble, servant love? Or are they to a large degree (praise God for the few exceptions) steering clear of us too? May we collapse our defenses and allow the Spirit to impress on us the conviction that we, in our treatment of those who may be of a different orientation, we have unintentionally but very clearly nonetheless, imbibed more the spirit of the Pharisees, more the spirit of James and John, more the spirit of the Accuser, than we have the spirit of Jesus and thus God. As followers of Jesus, we are not to seek to consign people’s lives to destruction, but rather through humble servant love seek to save people’s lives instead.
What am I trying to say this week? In short, stop using Sodom and Gomorrah as a justification for our treatment of gays and lesbians. Just stop. We don’t know what spirit we are of when we do this. It brought about rebuke for James and John, and it places us in a position to be rebuked by Jesus and the Father, too.
Life and people are complicated. Compassion should be given freely and not earned. We have no right to judge anyone, but to pass judgment before we have even stopped to hear their story, is demonically ugly. Everyone has a story and, before we condemn, we must stop and listen. And lastly, you don’t have to legitimize somebody’s lifestyle to love that person, to be brother or sister to that person, and to stand up for that person.
As a follower of Jesus, to those of you who belong to the LGBT community, who receive our emails regularly, I’m so sorry for where I have not been Jesus to you.
This week, I choose to look at those around me, regardless of gender, race or even orientation, ask myself how Jesus would reach out to them, and then ask myself, “Do I want to follow Jesus?” Who’s with me?
Keep living in love, and keep building the Kingdom.
Thank you for listening.
I love you guys,