“When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them.”
The study notes in my Bible highlight Jesus’s rejection of his disciples’ condemning suggestion with the following: “His ministry at his first coming is not to bring judgment, and not to compel people to follow him through threat of immediate punishment, but to bring the free offer of the gospel.” John 3:17 is referenced, emphasizing the truth of that statement:” For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
I think this brings focus to how we are to act and speak as witnesses of God and ambassadors of the Gospel. Condemnation has no place on our lips. Our God does not operate on fear. He operates on love. Love and hope and light, promising life abundant and eternal to all who believe in Him. Oh how easy it is to lose that focus when we feel attacked in this broken, corrupted world. People condemn and hate us and so we, in our human pride, are tempted to respond in kind.
But that kind of response is not Christ. Because our Christ is love. And He came to save sinners. He had dinner with them, the outcasts and the lost. If His words had been filled with frustration and condemnation toward them, they would not have invited Him in. They were drawn to the hope He offered and the acceptance He displayed. Not condoning sin, but accepting and loving the person He saw within. A stark contrast to the religious leaders of the day who scorned them.
Our God is a God of love. And His gospel is one of peace. This is what we proclaim. Desiring for others to draw near to Him for their good, not our reputation.
May our actions and words be driven by the love of God for others. May we see them through His eyes of mercy, compassion, and understanding. Each of us has a story and broken pieces that have led us to where we are. Those of us who know Christ can say with Paul, “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Christ alone heals our brokenness and forms it into God-glorifying beauty. Only Christ can do that for those around us. He heals and makes whole. He brings joy and peace and strength.
May we desire their good and show this through our love, and through the space we give the Spirit to do His work in them. We cannot force them into this. We cannot frighten them into this. Nor should we desire to do so. We just love, as Christ did. And He draws them to Himself. His grace saves. His power transforms. And they find life in Him.