“‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But He (Jesus) turned and rebuked them (James and John), and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:54-56
James and John were very familiar with the message of grace that Jesus brought. He had said on a number of occasions that He did not come to judge, but to save. (See John 3:17 & John 12:47) Jews of that time had established a tradition of traveling around Samaria because they considered Samaritans to be heretics and didn’t want to be defiled by them.
Yet Jesus had asked James and John to make arrangements in Samaria for a place to stay on their way to Jerusalem. They went in a spirit of grace most likely, but when they were rejected; when they felt judgment from others; they shifted to a retaliatory spirit. They had even convinced themselves that this was probably what God wanted them to do until Jesus rebuked them and said they were in the wrong spirit. When we feel judged it’s easy to respond in judgment toward others.
I was sitting in the sauna at a health club chatting with a man about a number of things including the remodeling being done on the men’s and women’s bathrooms. Because male workers were doing the remodeling, the women’s bathroom had to be the men’s bathroom for a while which meant the usual men’s bathroom was now the women’s bathroom. There were signs clearly letting everyone know about the change.
This man left the sauna before me but when I came out a few minutes later I saw him going into the women’s bathroom. It was too late to give a warning. A few minutes later he came bursting out of the door and announced to all in hearing range, “it’s hard to break old habits.” He wasn’t trying to go in the women’s bathroom, he had just reverted back to his usual pattern without even thinking about it.
It’s not enough to show mercy once in a while. We need to stay in the right spirit all the time to reveal God’s love to a fallen world.