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?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know of what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:54-56 (New American Standard Bible)
Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, my zeal for the Lord surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees. It’s as though I’ve been drinking directly from the nozzle of a spiritual espresso machine. I’m primed and ready to call fire down from heaven on anyone and anything I believe is disrespecting the sanctity of the Judeo-Christian ethic.
My devotion to tradition and my own pride is the poorest reason to want to see others taken to task for their sins. Yet in my own eyes my personal indignation is the most righteous and pure. And whose righteous indignation is not the best? James and John were of a people whose righteous indignation and, at times, outright hatred of a neighboring region, Samaria, was always near the surface. It could bubble up like stinky sulfur without much provocation. Jews in this time were extremely antagonistic of Samaritans and the dislike was mutual. Calling fire down on them was not so much to avenge the slight upon the honor of God but due to prejudicial feelings of James and John. I can tend toward being like that too. I could think of a bunch of people I’d like God to turn into crispy critters. Jesus surely didn’t see it that way. As Deity Incarnate, He had every right and the personal power to call fire down upon those surly Samaritans who had insulted Very God of Very God. But He had not come to kill but to save.
Jesus didn’t try to reason with James and John but instantly give a warning to them for their insensitive and uncompassionate spirit they had allowed themselves to go into. I’m glad He will do the same with me when I am inclined to pray down fire and brimstone on an unbelieving world. But being stopped and rebuked really isn’t enough. What I long to see is a spiritual renovation of my heart. It is far better He would make me the kind of person who would automatically want to use oil to bind and heal wounds and not to boil scoffers in. How else would we expect sinners to act except to act like those out of fellowship with Christ? Is grace too weak and inept to have any effect? Thousands come to a saving knowledge of Him everyday all over the world. What if someone had burned them down the day before they became believers? Is anyone so lost in their sin that Christ’s death and resurrection can’t change them? Even those with an agenda so obviously opposed to the works and righteousness of God? If God can extend such amazing grace to an unbelieving world then I can work to understand what that looks like and practice that part of His presence. Lord Jesus help us when we want to call down fire on those who hate You. When trying to decide between Regular or Extra Crispy let us pray that we’ll choose grace, patience, prayer and to deal righteously instead. In that Lord you will only say “Well done.”