That passage about setting out to spread the Good News – the one where you are to stay in one house – where if you are not listened to you shake the dust of your sandals and move on … that passage. How do I know?
How do I know whether the Good News is being received and changing lives – or is merely being heard and nodded at? How do I know when it seems as though “it” is being heard and nodded at? And more to the point – when “I” am being heard and nodded at? And just how do I know whether I am “hearing God and sharing the Good News” – or just being cranky and pissing people off?
And something else. Good Christians are good at not saying what they really think. Good Christians are good at smiling. Good Christians are good at knowing their theological labels. Good Christians do not shake the dust off their sandals and move on when they are amongst other Good Christians. And I wonder – can Good Christians love each other and stick together to the point of snoozing the God out of each other?
That passage about dusty sandals? All three Gospels (except John): Matthew 10, Mark 6, and Luke 9 – all very similar. Maybe repeated and swapped maybe not. The Word of God and us. Always a question or two. And how do I know it is not just me being cranky – that I am the one not hearing?
And “Affirmation” – what does that word mean? And “Conviction” – what does that word mean? And “Let’s pray about this” – what does that add when it is used as “we shouldn’t have done this to each other” before parting on “smiling” terms?
“Then Peter said, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:27-29
When we return to our own homes and family and friends, our own job or income, our own lifestyle and nice things …just what does “being them” really mean? When we gather together, when we break bread together, when we affirm our faith together, when we are convicted of His Word together, when we have left everything (i) and followed Him (ii), and when we go home again … ?
Is that still “being them” – and just how do I know?
Because I wonder – are we are all doing this for the prize of “eternal life” (whatever that is) – or another reason? And is that why the disciples did it? And is that why the collared clergy do it? And is that why I do it?
Because if it is – then how can I meet God in the present, this moment, right now? And if I cannot – then how can I be a disciple in the first place? And if I am not – then am I really up for “the prize” of eternal life at all?
So when I am heard and smiled at – but nothing changes … should I be shaking the dust of my sandals and moving-on (or not)?
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
[i] This does need clarification – that if we are “prepared to” then that is good enough. Because if we are really and truly convicted (over enough time to be really and truly convicted that is what He REALLY wants) then on that basis – we already have ”left everything”. Because it is our hearts our Lord sees – that is the important bit – not how much we have. And because, if we are really and truly “prepared to”(if He ever asked and we were convicted enough), we would in a heartbeat – then we “have already.”
NB: A word of caution re “conviction”: the “smiling bit”, referred to in paragraph three, will camouflage clarity of conviction in the church community.
[ii] This does need a note of explanation – that “follow you” is not a literal command at all. “Follow you” in the sense of these verses is merely a “figurative” ambition. One in which we can blend various elements of our personal living to receive sufficient feedback from the church community that we are indeed “following Him”. Our church community will provide both guidance and judgement of the evidence required and presented for “clarity”.
NB: The same word of caution: notwithstanding the “smiling bit” referred to in paragraph three.