Luke 10:13-16 (CEV)
13 You people of Chorazin are in for trouble! You people of Bethsaida are also in for trouble! If the miracles that took place in your towns had happened in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have turned to God long ago. They would have dressed in sackcloth and put ashes on their heads. 14 On the day of judgment the people of Tyre and Sidon will get off easier than you will. 15 People of Capernaum, do you think you will be honored in heaven? Well, you will go down to hell!
16 My followers, whoever listens to you is listening to me. Anyone who says “No” to you is saying “No” to me. And anyone who says “No” to me is really saying “No” to the one who sent me.
What Does It Mean To Say ‘No’?
Have you ever watched someone you love go down a path that is guaranteed to have negative consequences for them?
Maybe a loved one with an addiction, or a friend in an abusive relationship? Someone who thought moving to another province would solve all of their problems, or someone who was convinced they needed to pursue a court case that had every indication of ending badly for them?
Did you try talking to them?
Did you try reasoning with them?
Did you want to do everything in your power to try to stop them from doing these hard things?
Of course you did!
When we love and care for people, we want to make sure that they are okay. We don’t want to see them suffer. We don’t want to see things go badly for them.
It’s easy, I think, to read these verses of ‘curses’ on Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum and hear anger and frustration. We wonder what horrible, terrible sin these people have committed to get told that they will “go down to hell”.
But what if it was a frustrated warning that came out of love not anger?
What if, like N.T. Wright comments, it was a warning about the disastrous results that would naturally occur if they kept on doing what they were doing. Violently opposing Rome was, after all, a guaranteed way to get violently opposed by Rome. And failing to act with the love and grace and generosity that the Kingdom story offered was also going to have consequences. Good things that could have, would have happened, weren’t going to have the chance to happen.
I hear this level of frustration to Jesus’ comments – it’s there and it’s real. Why would you act like this when it’s going to hurt you? Why would you fail to do the very things that will help??? Don’t you understand what the consequences are going to be???
But then he explains. The things he’s asking us to do? The wisdom he’s offering us about how to live life? That’s not just from him. It’s from God. That ‘no’ that we’re saying because we like our way of living? That’s a ‘no’ to God. That ‘no’ that we’re saying because we don’t want to trust, or we’re not sure if it’ll work, or we don’t want to take the risk? That’s a ‘no’ to God’s best for us.
I do not think that Jesus wants any of this bad stuff to happen to these towns and villages. If he did, he wouldn’t be making any of these efforts. I think his actions come completely out of a place of love – however frustrated he might be getting – and a desire to protect and care for these people.
And yes, this was for them, back then, but it is also for us, today. There are things Jesus is calling us to do and to be. There are ways Jesus is calling us to live. Some of those ways of living seem pretty radical in our current context. Some of those ways of living seem difficult to find. What does it mean to love our neighbour when the world is our neighbour, and fear reigns in so many places? What does it mean to pursue peace in our families and communities and cities and countries? What does it mean to become people defined by love and peace in a world crushed under the weight of fear and rage?
And what does it mean if we say ‘no’?
- How do you view Jesus’ statements on how we should live? Do you see them through a lens of anger or a lens of love?
- How does this view affect your opinion of God? How does your opinion of God affect this view?
- How do you respond when Jesus starts to show up and encourage you that it’s time to make some changes to how you’re living life?
- In general, are you practicing saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’?