When Jesus sent his disciples out to share his story, he anticipated their not being welcomed everywhere they went. He told them, “When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say, ‘The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we’re giving it back. Did you have any idea that God’s kingdom was right on your doorstep?’ [Speaking to the disciples, Jesus added,] Sodom will have it better on Judgment Day than the town that rejects you’” (Luke 10:10-12, The Message).
How does Jesus expect us to win over those who don’t know him unless we hang around where they are? How will they ever understand who Jesus is if our first response to their rejection is to shake the dirt from our feet and head on down the road?
Would it not be better had Jesus given a lesson on how to win over our enemies and influence our friends? After all, we Christians have a product—salvation—to sell to the world. How are we ever going to do that without learning how to win over those who don’t want to hear us?
Many fail to understand this seemingly harsh statement because they misunderstand Jesus and salvation. Jesus is not a product to be sold by some and bought by others.
The kingdom of God is not the latest and greatest resort we must visit! Jesus is a person to be introduced and with whom to have a relationship; and the kingdom of God is a way of life that Jesus said was the beginning of something brand new.
For as long as I can remember, there have been folks around promising us that, if we learn their program of evangelism, we will be able to win our community to Jesus. Some of those proffered programs have been worse than others, but they all miss the point.
We don’t have a product to sell or an argument to win. When we forget this, we are in trouble.
If we would introduce Jesus to others, we must let Jesus live in and through our lives. If Jesus lives in us, we will not be obnoxious by pushing Jesus on people who don’t want to hear or who are not ready to hear. Doing so makes enemies.
How much better to walk away, leaving them with a subtle reminder that something wonderful drew near—the Savior and the kingdom. Perhaps they will think about what they rejected and be more open to hearing us on our next encounter or hearing someone else who may come their way.
As I think about it, Jesus’ statement about shaking off the dirt of the town from our feet isn’t as harsh as it first sounds. Perhaps Jesus anticipated our commercialization of the good news. His instruction served both the disciples and their audience well.
It kept the disciples from wasting their time and energy with people who were not receptive; and it protected the people from being pushed too hard too soon. Jesus was not being harsh. He was reminding us that being bearers of the Good News does not give us permission to be pushy and bothersome.
Any follower of Jesus wants others to know and love Jesus, but not all who hear of Jesus will follow him. Some who initially reject our presentation of Jesus and his story might be more willing to hear about Jesus if they were to see more of him in the lives of those of us who proclaim him . . . just a thought—perhaps one we should think about.