Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 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, just as Elijah did?”
James was one of the brothers of thunder. I saw a play that depicted them as your classic rowdy guys who were tough to control but goodhearted all the same. When I was in college, there was a room across the hall from mine where four guys like that lived together. These guys very quickly became good friends with me and my roommate. We were all very different kinds of people, but somehow we all still got along. I recall one evening when another kid no one particularly liked began to have an issue with a friend of mine who was visiting our campus. Immediately, those four guys took the defensive, and I had to step in to calm them down. They were protective and loyal, which are valuable commodities to have in a friend, but their judgment was not the best.
James had that kind of passion about defending and protecting his Lord. When these people disrespected Jesus, he wanted to make sure that they were punished for their actions. He was on fire for God, but that fire was of a different brand than the Lord wanted to wield. James wanted to destroy the adversaries of Christ with his fire. Christ wanted to draw them in and refine them with flames of conviction and repentance. It was not that James was a bloodthirsty killer. It was that he understood the honor and reverence the Lord deserved, and He took a personal offense to any slight directed toward Jesus. His words here give us insight into the man whose passion for God led to his being martyred. He was willing to defend his Lord at all cost.
Like Peter slicing off the ear of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus, James had no qualms about shedding blood in defense of his Lord. Things will come to that one day, but that day is not here yet. We are not those who come to bring judgment or condemnation to the world today. Our work in this time is focused on bringing people to repentance and restoration. We cannot let our passion to defend the Lord send us on the wrong path when we deal with the world. If we fight with fire now, let it be the fire that refines and not the one that destroys. Father, give us the power to control our emotions and deal with your enemies in the world just as your Son did, with a compassion that brings conviction and yields transformation.