Sunday, June 12, 2005

Shaking Off the Dust

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Matthew 10:14

As I was thinking about today's Gospel lesson, I couldn't help but pause at this seemingly un-Jesusian instruction. I understand that shaking the dust from one's sandals as a sign of contempt was, in that time and place, some pretty serious street theater. Where's the "God of second chances" here? What happened to forgiving seventy times seven, and going back for the lost sheep, and "Father, forgive them," and all that other grace stuff?

In going through the process of "What does it say?"-"What does it mean?"-"What does it mean for me right now?" I came across a couple of commentaries that helped me better wrap my head around this passage.

The people Jesus seems to be targeting here are not folks who just don't get the Reign of God -- heck, most of the time the disciples themselves (and, by extension, the rest of us) don't get it. No; they're the people who, in some deep-seated, unequivocal way, don't want to get it, ever. They're people who have, for whatever reason, declared a final NO to God's YES to them. The shaking-off-of-the-dust is simply an acknowledgment of, and exclamation point to, the rejection of God that has already taken place.

Does this scenario exclude the possibility that, sometime in the future, these same individuals might experience a powerful metanoia moment that opens their hearts to the good news of God's redeeming, reconciling work? I don't think so; but in this story Jesus is concerned about the now: You are here. So is God. Deal.

And, in addition to this -- I think Jesus is also giving his disciples permission to walk away from the hard cases, before the hard cases break them. I think that's an important point for those of us who try valiantly, sometimes, to get others to understand God's redeeming, reconciling grace, only to get dope-slapped again and again and again by hateful people; not clueless, struggling people, mind you, but literally hateful people who have unequivocally rejected the good news of God's love and acceptance, who speak and act in ways completely oppositional to the way of Christ. Walking away from someone doesn't mean hating that person; it means...just that; walking away; stating our case, commending the situation to God and moving on. Sometimes, sadly, I think that's the "next right thing" we can do.


*Christopher said...

Amen. It's hard sometimes especially for us more relational types to do just that, but sometimes, it's the only thing we can do to get on with life.

greg said...

It's interesting. Our sermon focused on a completely different aspect of the reading, and so I sort of missed this. I like the interpretation; it emphasises God's respect for free will. God sends us messengers, but never forces us to listen to them. Hmmm.

LutheranChik said...

I am struggling with this issue right now, elsewhere on the Internet, with a couple of individuals who trumpet their righteousness nonstop, but whose comments are so oppositional to the Gospel that at times I wonder if these guys aren't sock puppets for someone with a Landover Baptist Church sense of satire. And they're chronically angry, mean and rhetorically vindictive.

My rationale for continuing to respond to their posts is that if I don't, some casual or naive reader will assume that they are speaking for Christianity as a whole. But is that really my job? Maybe it's time to let someone else fight the good fight for awhile. I don't know. And I have other online friends who are dealing with these same equivocal feelings. But I think that that's why this part of the text spoke to me today.

*Christopher said...

LC, I sent you a message on Friday, I believe, to your yahoo address on this site. You just need to accept to get started. Or, if you use another email, just let me know...

bls said...

You've really hit the nail on the head, LC.

The only other choice, besides leaving the Church completely - and you know I've been considering this seriously - is just to get outta town with these people.

I'm always impressed that you're able to make the scriptural connection, too, BTW! I tend to go scientific and rationalist in my arguments, so I really, really appreciate someone like you who can do the exegesis. And that's not to be flip here, either; I think you're entirely correct in your reading of this passage.

Anyway, thanks. Thank God it's possible to retain one's faith even in the face of all this opposition. I definitely need to keep my head down for awhile, though, if I'm going to be able to do it.

LutheranChik said...

And sometimes, too, I have a hard time not having the last word..."And another thing!...";-)

J.C. Fisher said...

But, to combine the Holy w/ the Scientific, I also like the think that the Spirit sometimes communicates to me via my (figurative, for now) blood pressure: Time to walk away.

Let go and let God.