Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Dust on Our Feet

Here's another simple act of faith that we don't seem to be very good at: shaking the dust off our feet. Jesus told His disciples to do it in the Gospels, when they went into a town and were not embraced and accepted. In Acts 13:51, we see the apostles doing it - shaking the dust off of their feet as they left a place that wasn't interested in what they had to say.

You'd think we'd actually be very good at this, given the world that we live in. From a consumer's point of view, it's a disposable world; from a personal point of view, we might say it's a rebootable world. If something's not working out or if something breaks, you just ditch it and replace it with something new. 

Job not working out? Quit and find a new one. Marriage too hard? Get divorced. Car broken down? Buy a new one. Fridge on the fritz? Time to replace it. Computer slow? Upgrade! Dog got old? Take that puppy to the pound and trade it in on a younger model. We spend our lives throwing old things out and bringing new things in like it's nothing at all. 

Believe it or not, there are still persons in this world, entire generations still alive, who believe that when something breaks, you fix it. When it's hard, you work harder. When it seems to be broken, you make it work. When it's dead, you raise it back to life. 

But the only place that today's dominant generation does that is, well, the places where they ought to be shaking the dust off of their feet - the places of unacceptance.

It's a hot issue in our culture today. In fact, it might be the issue in our culture today. If someone is not accepted for who he or she is, if he or she doesn't "feel" wholly accepted - in other words, if the world doesn't wholeheartedly approve of everything that he or she does - this is a time when Jesus would tell His disciples to shake the dust off of their feet and move on .

But the culture tells us this is the place to dig our feet in and take a stand. And most often, we do. 

We insist that everyone appreciate us. We insist that they recognize us for the things we want to be recognized for. We demand, in the very same breath, that they both value what makes us unique and accept that we are just the same as they are. We absolutely refuse to live in a world that doesn't accept our religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, economic status, education level, preference in coffeeshops, favorite color, or the way we tie our shoes.

We find it completely unacceptable to be unaccepted on any count, counting it the greatest offense to be rejected, all the while throwing away anything and everything that doesn't suit our fancy any more. 

In our disposable world, we've surrounded ourselves with so much trash that if someone rejects us, we can't help but think that we must be trash, too. And that just won't do. 

But that's not what's happening, and it's not what Jesus preaches. He doesn't say that you should accept that the world thinks you're trash (it doesn't, even though our culture preaches that it must be so). He says that you should accept that you won't be accepted everywhere. There are some peoples on this earth who just don't want what you're selling, and it's got nothing to do with you; your message is just a miss with them. It's not on their radar.

There's no reason, He says, to stay and try to shove it down their throats. If you do, they'll only come to hate you and your message. (And if that's not the truth, I don't know what is - just look at our headlines.) Not only that, but you will exhaust yourself and work the pain of rejection deeper and deeper into your own soul until you either burst out in unmitigated anger or you pull inward in unbreakable despair. 

We're doing this as Christians, demanding that the world hear our Gospel in places where it's just not interested right now. Demanding the world hear our Good News where we want to tell it, be that in our lawn displays or in our legislatures. And the world is getting weary of us shoving our message down their throats; they hate us and our Jesus. And why shouldn't they? 

We need to get better at doing what Jesus commanded us to do, at doing what the apostles did when they went out to spread the Good News: shake the dust off your feet. Let it go. Not everywhere in the world is ready for you, and you have to know when it's time to move on. Time to take a different turn. Time to find a different audience or a different place. It's true for us when it comes to our religion, and it's true for us when it comes to the other things we're all fighting about these days. 

Contrary to what our culture tells us, it's not the time nor the place to dig in and take a stand; shake the dust off your feet and walk away. 


(This in no way means that we do not attempt to bring the message of Christ to those who have not heard it or that we do not continue to pray for and to pursue those whose hearts might be receptive to it. But we have to know where our battle lines are and heed Jesus's wisdom on this. If we don't, we're doing more harm than good - to ourselves, to these places, and to His message.) 

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