Thursday, February 27, 2014
Refusing to Listen
Mark 6:11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
Jesus had instructed his disciples to go out into the cities and to preach the good news. Some places would be more receptive than others. The responsibility of the disciples was not to make the people receptive, but to be faithful messengers.
Historically the Jews had shaken the dust off of their feet as they had left Gentile villages. They were, in a sense, shaking the “uncleanliness” from their feet as they left these towns. Therefore this was a common habit among those who saw themselves as being highly religious. The disciples were traveling to Jewish villages and they were being prepared for those religious people who would refuse to hear. The testimony against those who would not welcome them was not just a rejection of the disciples, but a rejection of Jesus himself. The result was that these people would now be unclean spiritually, for unless they accepted Christ they would not be able to enter into the holy place for all of eternity. Their behavior and rejection of the Messiah made them “unclean” and the disciples would shake the dust off their feet as a public witness of their spiritual state.
The Jews saw themselves as very religious people who were meticulous about following the laws of God. Unfortunately they were so caught up in their religiosity that many failed to recognize the good news about the Messiah when presented.
Too many folks these days believe themselves to be good and religious. They are engaged in all the cultural practices of religion. They attend church pretty regularly and they get fired-up about defending the rights of Christians from a political and legal perspective. But what would happen if they were confronted with the potentially messy relationship of Jesus Christ? Jesus brought something completely new and different to the religious scene that the people found difficult to accept. Jesus brought with him a new way of life, one that led to a deeply intimate relationship with God that was transformational. That transformation is not always easy and becomes one in which we must wrestle with the life which we encounter. Nothing is ever just black and white and we realize that the love of God reaches beyond so many of our man-made barriers.
Sometimes when good church folk are confronted with Jesus they are uncomfortable. I’m afraid that just as there were good Jews who rejected the disciples so we are in danger of good “Christian” folks rejecting true discipleship. Could it be that God has said “shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” in regard to some of our churches? The people have not been listening. The good news has been rejected. They have made a choice that makes them unclean in the presence of God.
My heart breaks at this very thought. May it not be so, Lord! May we not be a stubborn people who refuse to hear what your messengers are saying to us and may we be willing to change! My prayer is that we will never hear it be said of who we are as a people — or as a church — that the messengers will “shake off the dust that is on [their] feet as a testimony against [us].”
Lord, help us to listen. Amen.