Shake the dust off and move on

 

dustHave you ever shared the Gospel with someone repeatedly, only to have them laugh in your face?  Ever tried to serve someone only to have your efforts rejected over and over?  Did you know that God tells us to move on, to leave situations behind where people continue to resist the Gospel and refuse to hear the Word. I can hear you asking, “Jerry, what about patience, endurance, and love?” I ponder that same question.
How long do we continue to present Christ to those who mock Him, who resist us, who care nothing for the message we bring?
How long do we try to serve those who throw it back in our face?

There is no one simple answer, but there is a principle that Jesus taught, that is repeated in 3 of the Gospels and that we see in the ministry of Paul.

When He sent the apostles out on Kingdom missions, He said “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:8-11, NIV)  Did they ever actually do it? Yes!

The influential religious women and the leaders of the city … incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.” (Acts 13:50-51, NLT)

In another parable, Jesus tells us not to “throw pearls before pigs.”  Awfully strong language, isn’t it?

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Jesus is not teaching us to be petty or vindictive! He is not telling us to throw a tantrum when we feel disrespected or when others are rude. That would be totally in conflict with the command to love others sacrificially, to be selfless servants.

We are to be led and empowered by the Spirit. If we have given ourselves prayerfully to someone in our family or to a region or even to a church in service and they care nothing for the things of God, the Spirit may whisper to us, “You’re finished here. Move on.” We do not have to make a grand production or call down the fire of judgment on their heads. Instead, we obediently pick up the pieces, thank God for the opportunity, trust Him for the results, and leave, shaking off the dust, without remorse or regret.

Let me underscore the fact that this has nothing to do with being personally offended!  If we are hurt and decide, “Well, I’ll show them” and walk off in a huff, we have missed the point.  If our desire is to find fertile soil for the Gospel, to use the finite resources of time and energy for the greatest good, and we are led of the Spirit, then we go. God will give us wisdom to know the difference between “I quit!” and “It’s time to go.”

Samuel Wells writes about serving people who avoid the Gospel, who resist God’s work, who refuse accountability making excuse after excuse for not living as they should, becoming disciples of Christ. He takes Jesus’ teaching and writes these wise words.

“Don’t carry that dust everywhere you go, embittering relationships, souring friendships, sapping energy, leaking hope.
Shake the dust off your feet.
Don’t take out your anger on people when you have no idea what’s making them be so bafflingly indifferent.
Shake the dust off your feet.
Don’t judge them — that’s God’s job, not yours, and only God knows why they’re so distracted or so passive or so frustrating or so silent.
Shake the dust off your feet.
Don’t go on a self-righteous rant that assumes you’re a perfect embodiment of the gospel and anyone who doesn’t repent and be baptized this instant must be stupid.
Shake the dust off your feet. Shake, shake, shake.”

Now let me change the focus to you and me and our attitude towards Christ. Are we meeting Him with apathy? Are we indifferent about worship? Are we more interested in chasing happiness than the pursuit of the Eternal?  Let’s realize that He, too, despite His abundant love, will ‘move on.’

The word from the Word comes from His letter to the Laodicean Christians. He couples a warning with promise.  May these words awaken us to follow Him today.  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. … Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:15-16 18-20, NIV)

_____________

Lord, I want You to be welcomed in my life.
Forgive me for the times when I rush on to my own agenda,
When I ignore Your invitation, when I offer up half-hearted prayers,
When I persist in sin, despite the Spirit’s conviction.
Lead me to Your heart.
Let’s sit down to dinner and become best of friends,
Jesus, this I pray . Amen

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