“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”
In an almost obscure event in the gospel according to Luke, the writer records a brief encounter between Jesus and His disciples, and a group of Samaritans. Luke 9:51-56 describes Jesus’ focus on getting to Jerusalem, because of His impending crucifixion. His mind is fixed upon completing the mission that He was sent to accomplish. On His way to Jerusalem, He decides to go through a Samaritan village. Jesus sends some messengers ahead of Him to prepare for His arrival in the village. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus. There was an ongoing feud between the Jewish people and the Samaritans and the village did not welcome Jesus because He was headed to Jerusalem. When the disciples (James and John) heard that the village did not want Jesus there, they became indignant. James and John, showing the unbridled enthusiasm of their friend Peter suggested that they “call fire down from heaven and destroy the village.” But Jesus reprimanded them and they simply went to another town.
What are the lessons that we can take from this scripture that we can and should apply to our lives every day?
First, we must be careful not to stay in a place that encourages us to take our focus off of the main thing. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is not to exact revenge or to give those who have come against us what they may rightfully deserve. Our focus must continue to stay on our mission and our purpose for being there. For Jesus it was to get to Jerusalem. For us it is to bring maximum honor and glory to His Holy name. Anything that distracts us from our purpose has the potential to hinder and possibly even to prevent us from accomplishing our ultimate and most important goal.
Secondly, whenever we committed to fulfilling our purpose for the Lord, there will be opposition. Opposition does not mean that we should leave. I do not believe that this is the reason why Christ decided to go to another town. Christ was not one to necessarily go out of His way to avoid confrontation. I believe He decided to go to another town because of the disciple’s incorrect response to the opposition. One of the greatest lessons that I have learned is the truth that “your actions do not necessitate a response from me”. Just because you do something, does not mean that I have to respond to your actions. If the disciples could have remembered that, they probably could have avoided Jesus’ reprimand.
We shouldn’t be surprised when people come against us. Those who should be excited about our presence have and will persecute us without cause. Those that we have come to deliver, those we have sacrificed for, are often ungrateful, and the first to cast words of pain and disappointment. And while we very well might have the right to “call down fire from heaven upon them”, we must respond as did the Master. There is too much at stake and time is too short to waste it on people who neither appreciate us, nor understand our mission. Don’t get indignant. Don’t get insulted. Just move on, because we can’t hold on to our indignation, our anger, our desire to retaliate AND glorify Jesus Christ. This attitude will hinder the accomplishment of the goal that God has desired that we accomplish. We must let the love and light of Jesus shine. We must forgive. We must let go of the hurt. In Christ Jesus, we must learn to leave the pain of our past behind. We must learn to focus intently on the promise of our future, in Him.
Praise Jesus that He has already provided us with the strength to respond to our challenges in a way that brings Him glory. Thank Him in advance for the spiritual wisdom and tenacity not to be distracted from our purpose.
May Christ continue to bless us all!