I spoke yesterday about “Budgeting for the Journey” as part of a sermon series entitled “The Way of the Cross Leads Home.” When we embark on a journey, whether a holiday excursion or a work-related trip, pre-travel resource assessment is crucial. Along with considering whether we will be able to procure fuel, food, and lodging, we must ask whether our physical and emotional stamina are adequate. We may also envision situations that we might encounter during the journey and devise plans to solve the problems that might arise. As Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the last time, he encountered a village that refused entrance and hospitality to him and his disciples. Two of his disciples, James and John, perhaps recalling the prophet Elijah’s disposal of soldiers who had been sent to detain him (2 Kings chapter 1), wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the village. Jesus. Jesus refused them; he sought to save, not destroy. Whether the disciples fury was ignited by the blatant disrespect of the villagers to their teacher (and probable Messiah) or if it was the result of having walked too long on dusty, rocky trails, their reaction was too extreme. In their fervor to defend the Savior, they wanted to destroy what he wanted to save.
As we journey through life as disciples of Jesus, we must take care to plan well for the journey. We must assess whether we have the physical, emotional, and spiritual resources that we need to navigate obstacles that we may encounter. We must study carefully and humbly so that we understand the Savior’s directions. Like James and John, opposition that defies our understanding or horrifies our understanding of morality may tempt us to pray for swift and dramatic punishment for our adversaries. We instead must pray for wisdom to act in ways that most likely will result in salvation and reconciliation. As Jesus himself would demonstrate, the journey does not go smoothly. God does not guarantee security or prosperity in this life to the faithful. He does promise his love and protection. There are times to stand and defend, but often we would like to strike when, like Jesus, we instead should move on to the next village.
Father, we recoil in anger when we witness blatant disrespect for you. Grant us wisdom that we may discern when we truly are upset about you and when we are angry because our “rights” have been ignored. Help us to love when we would rather hate; teach us how to listen and heal when we would rather condemn and destroy. Help us to demonstrate a mature, strong faith that will encourage repentance and reconciliation. Give us courage when we must speak a word for you or act for good in the presence of evil. In Jesus’ name, Amen.