And it came to pass, when the time was come, that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. (Luke 9:51-56)
The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of animosity and hatred one toward another. Because of this, when Jesus sought accommodations in Samaria as He passed through, it was not a strange thing that He should be treated rudely and refused. Most Jews avoided Samaria altogether when traveling between Galilee and Jerusalem, but Jesus chose rather to go through this hostile land-evidently to demonstrate his love for all people and to use the opportunity to teach a few things to his disciples. Chief among these lessons is that mercy needs to be cultivated in our lives as much as righteousness. Doing right and living a moral life is part of what it means to follow Christ, but so, too, is being kind, loving, and gracious-even toward those who seemingly do not deserve it. Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. He told us we are to forgive, be gracious, and show kindness-even to those who spitefully abuse us. Granted, this sometimes can be incredibly hard, but it is the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus continually demonstrated a good and right spirit even in the midst of great mockery and suffering. As His followers we are called upon to copy His example and share His spirit. In a recent sermon, we rehearsed a principle that we all need to remember: Even when we are in the right, it never gives us the right, to be wrong (in spirit or action) toward another. Or, said another way, even when we are wronged, we are still obligated to do and be right in action and spirit. Though our natural tendency is to "call down fire from heaven" upon those who have wronged, offended, or hurt us, we need to remember that our calling is to find a way to help, heal, and resolve these issues through a good spirit and humble heart. A bad spirit toward others guarantees a number of hurtful things. It ensures that the injury between us and the one who hurt us has little chance of being healed. It is also a sure way to develop a hard heart. And, it will always be a hindrance to our ability to follow Christ. A bad spirit after an offense only adds insult to injury and gives opportunity to the devil to make a bad situation worse for us and others. For these reasons-and a host of positive ones-Jesus calls upon us to guard our hearts and spirits and to return kindness for evil. A good spirit fosters within us a soft and humble heart. It also creates an atmosphere where healing and grace can be fostered. And, it frees us from a self-imposed bondage that has to potential to greatly defile. The Lord rebuked James and John for harsh and negative spirits in the face of offense. What about you? Can you say your spirit toward others is everything God wants it to be? Can you hear His small still voice rebuking you for a tendency to "call down fire" on others? Do you know what spirit you are of? It would be good for all of us to guard our hearts and spirits so that we might truly be able to say we are following the example of Christ.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)