Have you ever been in a situation where someone simply didn’t like you? Now if you are like me, you must find it hard to believe that someone could not like you. What reason could they possibly have for not liking you? What have you ever done to them? These are the thoughts that run through our heads when we encounter someone who does not like us. Then there is also the thought that if they don’t like me then I don’t like them much either.
We may feel justified in this. After all, he or she is the one who started it! I had no problem with them until they acted in a manner that was unkind towards me. You may even feel justified in mistreating them in return, or at the very least, in having judgements towards them. We’ve all been in this situation. We’ve all felt the same way. At first we’re hurt, but soon our hurt feelings turn into unkind thoughts and even at times actions.
In Luke 9:51-56, Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus decided to go through Samaria instead of going east of the Jordan River around Samaria. The Samaritans were not welcoming to Jewish travelers going to Jerusalem. There has always been a long standing hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans, so this was not completely unexpected.
Still, it was offensive to the disciples. It was so offensive, that James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy them, just as Elijah did. They were really offended and for good reason.
In that culture at that time, hospitality was expected to be offered to travelers. It would be considered an act of hostility if hospitality was not offered, and the disciples interpreted the Samaritans actions correctly. The Samaritans were being hostile towards them. But, Jesus had none of this.
Elijah did call down fire from heaven upon the messengers of King Ahaziah, but not because they were unkind to him. It was because they were sent to see the counsel of a foreign god on behalf of the king. Elijah was not acting on his own behalf. He was a prophet of God, and it was offensive towards God to have His king seeking the counsel of a foreign god. Therefore, Elijah called down God’s judgment upon these messengers.
Even though James and John were the ones who suggested the calling down of fire, the others were thinking it. Jesus put James, John and the rest of His disciples straight as He rebuked them. Jesus told them that is not the Spirit which they are of. He went on to explain that He did not come to destroy, but to save.
So, Jesus took His disciples and went to another village. This group of Samaritans did not welcome Jesus at this time, but Jesus showed them love by simply going to another village. He held out the hope that they would one day welcome Him in the future. This would not happen if He had condemned and destroyed them.
We can all put ourselves in the place of James and John. Someone or some group of people don’t like us and they disrespect us. Our first thoughts are to return this act of hostility with even more hostility. This may make us feel good in the moment, but what about in the long term? What good does it do us to return evil with even more evil? This is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples. It seems that Jesus did not take them there by accident, but for the purpose of teaching them.
From the example Jesus set for us, we learn that people expect us to act in the same manner as they do. They can feel justified in their hostility toward us when we react in a hostile manner toward them.
But what if we don’t? What if we simply move on and don’t give it another thought? As difficult as this may be at times, it will truly demonstrate that we are different. It will make them feel that their dislike towards us may not be justified. Being hurtful and unkind is easy, especially toward someone who doesn’t like us. But, Jesus didn’t call us to do the easy thing.
Jesus wants everyone to live life to the fullest. We will never experience this fullness of life if we are in a constant state of hostility toward one another. Jesus teaches us to love those who don’t like us. We are to show love to even to those who mistreat us. Reciprocating evil is not an option. In this way, we will experience life to the fullest.
We will always encounter people or even groups of people who, for one reason or another, don’t like us. When this happens, we have a decision to make. Again, it is a decision. Are we going to respond likewise, or are we going to respond in love? We may not like the fact that someone dislikes us, but we have to remember that Jesus loves them. He expects us to show His love to them, even when they are unlovable.
If we truly want the fullness of life that Jesus advocates, we will respond in love. Evil will just get us more evil, but love begets love. So what do you want more of in your life? The decision is yours.