Should We Bring Fire Down On Them?

What if you're in the right on a major justice issue, and others you run across are in the wrong? What if it's your parents? What if it's an old friend? What if it's someone you've long despised?

Rather than ignore, unfriend, or harm anyone who is on the opposing side of justice, Christians are encouraged to embrace justice with mercy, justice with grace, justice in the way of Jesus.

An insightful interaction between Jesus and two of his followers is recorded in Luke's Gospel.

(Luke 9:52-56) Jesus sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.

Jesus' followers demonstrated a toxic strain of prejudice against the Samaritans. When the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus into their village, as many of their own countrymen did not, James and John leaped to the conclusion that they deserved swift and merciless judgment.

“Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54)

Lord, should we make an example of them?

Should we destroy their lives?

Should we topple their idols and burn down their city?

This is increasingly society's graceless response to those who don't fully support widely promoted views on multiple challenging issues.

Jesus' response speaks volumes.

"You do not know what kind of spirit you are of."

Jesus implies, "You fail to understand the deeper truth of who you are." "You don't realize the power of the Holy Spirit in you. And you don't understand Me or the new life in Me all that well, either."

This isn't what I'm about, not at all; this isn't what you signed up for when you began to follow Me.

These brothers' ignorance of God's heart and Jesus' mission led them to the wrong conclusion that justice without grace is God's will. Their prejudice got in the way. Their hatred justified their harsh response. "Those Samaritans pigs deserve it."

Then Jesus sets the record straight, "I have not come to destroy men's lives but to save them!"

This is the spirit that you and I are made of; this is the Spirit that you and I partake of.

Jesus wasn't here to ruin men's lives; the devil does that just fine.

Jesus didn't lay down the law against sinners, He didn't call for the death and demise of sinful people; He laid down His life for sinners.

It's like He's saying, "Guys, I'm not here to force the world to be morally pure. I have not come to make demands and then punish those who disobey or offend My values."

This is how the world operates, how the world controls; bullying, wrongful use of power. But this is not the way Christians must operate.

These same two brothers made some more loudmouthed claims which riled up Jesus' followers,

(Mark 10:41-44) Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. [But Jesus spoke into this.] Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all..."

Rather than calling down hellfire missiles, twitter mobs, Facebook shamers, and angry church ladies we need to remember what kind of Spirit we are, choose the beauty of grace and introduce people to Jesus Christ who does the opposite of destroy lives.

Jesus Christ came to save their lives, to give sinners new life, and believers abundant life in the love and forgiveness and sweet mercies of God. The church is meant to be a community of such people. Awful and John and James were, they became among the greatest examples of Christ's love.

People need to hear the good news of God's forgiveness from the church, not judgmental rage. How do Christians look different from the world? How do Christians look like Jesus if not through a message of good news and forgiveness, and acts of love.

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”