Scripture: “You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” Matthew 10:8b-15 ESV
Observation: Having established the goal of the Twelve’s mission (to restore peoples’ lives to shalom wholeness), Jesus outlines a five-part code of conduct when entering and leaving targeted communities (above verses). Specifically, they are to:
- labor free of charge;
- travel light;
- rely on the hospitality of those who receive them;
- express warm greetings and extend shalom peace to those who are worthy; and
- expediently recant their shalom blessings and renounce those homes and communities that reject their Gospel message (i.e., repent, the kingdom of God is near).
Jesus concludes his succinct and challenging instructions with the assurance that his disciples will rightfully repudiate fellow Israelites who reject the Good News because they have spurned their only means of forgiveness and salvation. Indeed, judgment will be worse for them than for Sodom and Gomorrah on judgment day because they have heard the Gospel from the lips of the Messiah’s messengers.
Takeaway: Jesus wants his apostles to grasp just how divisive his kingdom is. Thus, when the Twelve proclaim that it is near and ready to enter for those who repent of their sins and place wholehearted faith and trust in its King, many will dismiss the good news because it is scandalous: an affront to their wants and desires. Even some will feel threatened and respond with hostility and violence. We will delve deeper into this stark reality in tomorrow’s Daily Focus.
As for the above checklist, Jesus’ first disciples and subsequent generations fared better when they followed his guidelines. And we will, too. First, those who earn wages as ambassadors of Christ must resist profiteering. Billy Graham set a prudent example by establishing a board of trustees who approved his salary, and any donations received above his wages funded his evangelism association. Secondly, we must travel light in our missions work. Whether the church or missions communities, the goal is to reach the lost, not to build kingdom campuses. And while we should fully integrate into communities, we must not become immovable. It’s painful when the Lord uproots our deep-set roots.
Third, as in ancient times, hospitality is still central to sharing the Gospel. Whether the host or visitor, we need to foster a sense of grace and peace that invites people to move toward us. Fourth, we must discern when we have done all we can and move on when others are resistant. If we linger too long (often due to pride or fear of failure), it will not go well for them or us. So we give them to God (understanding that we have not failed but have done all we can to this point) and follow his Holy Spirit’s lead to others who may be receptive.
Lastly, in our post-resurrection era, while we need not recant blessings nor pass judgment on those who reject the Gospel, we would do well to continue to pray for them: that they would come to the end of their resources and discover the joy of their salvation. And, of course, we pray for ourselves: that we would be ready to lean in again as the Holy Spirit leads. It’s a Gospel fitness program that has been proven successful for two millennia!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who incarnated the Good News of the Kingdom of God and granted us the privilege to proclaim it on his behalf. So would you please help us follow the Holy Spirit’s lead in following Christ’s guidelines so that we might be fit for Gospel service to grow his kingdom and glorify his name? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling