Loving Our Enemy is Hard
On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:52-54)
Boy, who knew the disciples were so mean? We know Jews and Samaritans did not get along. There is a long history of bitterness between them and big differences in how they practice their faith (Jews worship in Jerusalem but Samaritans worship on Mt. Gerizim for instance), but to command fire from heaven to consume them? That seems a bit over the top.
I do wonder why Jesus was headed to “a village of the Samaritans” in the first place? I would think he would have known they were unlikely to welcome him with his face “set toward Jerusalem.” I guess it shows his willingness to bring the message of the beloved community of God to everyone, whether they want to hear that message or not.
Back to those disciples, though. Can you believe their first reaction to being rejected was to command fire to come down from heaven and consume the Samaritans? Wow. Whatever happened to love your neighbor?
Actually, I can believe that was their first reaction because I live in a world today where people are often openly hostile to those think or believe differently. Talk to our enemies? Listen to our enemies? Love our enemies? Nah. Let’s rain fire from heaven upon them.
What DID Jesus do? He didn’t rain fire from heaven upon this village, that’s for sure. Instead, Luke says, he rebuked the disciples and they moved on to another village.
Destroying your enemy wasn’t Jesus’ way. It wasn’t the way of the beloved community of God. And it shouldn’t be the way of Jesus’ disciples. This brief passage says something about how we should treat our enemies. Jesus was willing to give them a chance, even knowing the wide gulf between Jews and Samaritans. And when it didn’t work out, rather than spewing hate and violence, he moved on and continued sharing his message of love and forgiveness all the way to the cross.
It’s easy to love those who love me. The Way of Jesus Christ calls me to go a step further and love those who don’t love me. Like his first disciples, I know that is a hard step to take.