In most work things there is a line above which completion and performance are called success – and below which is called failure. Both are measured in degrees, and both are emotionally charged. One energises, the other depletes. Some people have a “performance-gap” and may be unaware or not care. Others have no “performance-gap” but imagine they do – care deeply over every small detail – often too deeply.
Each of us has the capacity to care too much or not enough. Each of us needs our own basket of tricks to remain motivated. Or else we are at the whim of our emotional state. Our feel-good or feel-bad factor.
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money – not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Luke 9:1-6
This “shaking the dust at them” always seemed a little vindictive to me.
No one asked you to come to our village and preach this alien stuff. And now we have listened and are not interested, you are heading off to some other village but not before cursing us with our own dust? And this your living demonstration of the “unconditional love” you say your God has for us … Really … ?
I have seen preachers at the top of Oxford Circus, London, tube station entrance. They have microphones and a little speaker to be heard above the noise of city life. Their message is of death. Of eternal damnation. Of missing out on something good. All because we would not listen. And no one seems to. Each of us heading home to our own personal “unconditional love” of family or partners and friends – away from the “conditional love” of work and that performance-gap.
I am not a fan of the doom and gloom message. Of “but I have the answer – I have found God and you should too” message. It sounds “conditional” and always will. And having a fragment of that aimed at me as I am on my way home after 8 hours of “conditional” seems to miss the point of something really beautiful and inviting. because what I am heading towards is so much better than what is being aimed at me over those little speakers.
And I wonder if Jesus was coaching the performance-gap. The emotional feel-bad factor. Shake yourself down. Pick yourself up. Leave it behind and move on – move past the performance gap. Go to the next one and the next one because there will be someone out there who wants to hear this message – who needs to hear this message.
But what of all those who don’t need to be saved. Why should they be cursed with their own dust for not needing to be saved?
And what if Jesus was not preaching a performance-gap tactic but was stating that those who don’t believe are to be cursed with their own village dust?
That is not the God I know. The God who sits in my “village dust” until I notice he is. The God who has waited with me for decades. Who always will.
How is that the same God as this God?