51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. Luke 9:51-56 NKJV
For that incident, Jesus named James and John “the sons of thunder,” (see Mark 3:17).
James and John were so ticked off at what they witnessed in Samaria. The Samaritans hated the Jews and they openly showed their racist, bigoted distain for Jesus and His followers. They were sectarian in their beliefs when it came to sharing the world with Jews, thinking themselves to be above and beyond anything a Jew could achieve. As a result of their obvious bad behavior, James and John wanted to have them incinerated. Thankfully Jesus was there to remind them that He hadn’t come to “destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Indicating, I think, that Jesus wanted the situation handled with love and grace, not a life-ending fire.
James and John were all too human.
Have you ever wanted to “incinerate” someone because of what they believe? Perhaps it was someone’s racist attitude (like the above description) or maybe it was just a political disagreement. Maybe it wasn’t even a disagreement. Maybe it was an insensitive remark. Or perhaps a friend or family member did something so stupid you couldn’t help but tell them to their face how stupid you thought they behaved. An incineration doesn’t have to be literal fire called down from heaven—we can also incinerate with our words. And our words have the power to destroy men’s lives.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21 NKJV
When we incinerate with our words, the situation can get a whole lot worse. The apostle Paul warns us that, “15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” Galatians 5:15 NKJV
Unfortunately, I struggle with this—not as much as I used to, but I still find myself pulling out the incinerator when something really ticks me off. I pulled it out this morning over a situation in my business and really “lost it” on my partner—who just happens to be my husband.
As Christians we answer to a much higher standard. And we are called to be “Christ-like,” not vengeful and mean-spirited, even in situations where we know that we are absolutely on the right side—like James and John. They were following God’s Christ and the Samaritans rejected Him. They knew they were on the right side and there was no way around it. Even so, Jesus required them to be graceful and move along.
Our words can easily destroy people. Speaking from experience (and I’m sure if you think about it you can recall some bad experiences in your own life), it’s awfully hard to forget thoughtless, unkind and cruel things that have been said about us, our work, our loved ones, etc. I’ve been destroyed a couple of times, and, unfortunately, I know I’ve handed down some destruction of my own. I wish I could take back every harsh word I’ve ever uttered.
Lord Jesus, I pray,
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:13-14 NKJV
Let our words be used for wisdom, sweetness and grace, lest we lose our audience—the audience Christ sought to save.
© 2017, Ta`Mara Hanscom