When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and destroy them?” But He turned and rebuked them [and He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they journeyed on to another village.
Have you ever felt the fire of God rise up inside of you when you hear someone take the Lord’s name in vain or say a disparaging thing about our Savior? Perhaps you have felt this way when someone offends a friend or loved one. When I was a baby Christian, this was often my reaction to such things. I immediately had to rise to the defense of God, and that defense typically took the form of a stiff rebuke, although my flesh desired to do worse. While I should feel a certain way when someone disrespects God before me, there is a proper way to respond to that. For Jesus, the proper way was not to eradicate his opposition. The world was destined to be against him when he arrived to save it, but He still came to save it. His response to the animosity from a fallen and dying world was not to bring death to it but to bring life to it.
James and John thought they had the right idea. No Samaritan was willing to help accommodate Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, so they thought the Samaritans should be punished for making his way difficult. It was a stiff punishment they proposed as it would result in death and destruction. But the fire they felt inside in that moment was of the wrong spirit. God’s Holy Spirit did not want to bring that fire but wanted to bring life. Jesus was able to discern between the spirits here and know that his disciples desired something other than the will of his Father. It is a lesson in testing our responses to make sure that they are in line with the word and will of God. Some may say that we should go with our gut, but discernment takes time. Our response to the evils of the world must be deliberate and wise. We cannot follow a gut reaction of the flesh. That only brings more trouble.
The ultimate sign of discernment when responding to the evil of this world came when Jesus was placed on the cross. During this time of torture, well people were spitting on and hurling insults at him, He responded in a way no one would expect. He asked his Father to forgive them because of their ignorance. He responded with the same love that caused him to hang on that cross. And when the guilty asked him for salvation, Jesus granted it without hesitation. The love of God conquered and continues to conquer all evil. Our responses to the wickedness we encounter here must be born of his Spirit and his love. Father, continue to increase our discernment so that we respond to the evils of this life as your Spirit would have us do, with love and wisdom.