We have all had our moments when we are tempted “to call down heavens fire” if someone acts in a way that we don’t approve of, or doesn’t meet our standards of behavior. We can be very critical. Should someone dare to undermine our agenda or become an obstacle to our plans, we can become impatient or judgmental. We should be asking why the other person feels as they do, or try to see things from their perspective, but too often we do not.
In this passage of the gospel, Jesus teaches the virtue of tolerance. Jesus takes a different route on his journey and passes through a Samaritan village. He was extending a hand of friendship to those who would be considered enemies. His hand of friendship, is refused. He is refused hospitality. Thus, the anger of James and John in suggesting that fire be brought down to destroy the village. Jesus said no, he would not permit it.
The religious leader John Wesley taught this about tolerance. “I have no more right to object to a man for holding a different opinion than I do if a man wears a wig and I wear my own hair. The thing which I resolve to use every possible means of preventing, is that narrowness of spirit, that miserable bigotry which makes many so unready to believe that there is no work of God but among themselves.”
Jesus teaches us that our tolerance must be based not on indifference, but on love. He calls us to be tolerant not because we care less, but because we look at the other person with eyes of love.
Abraham Lincoln was criticized for being too courteous to his enemies and was reminded of his duty to destroy them. He answered his critics, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
Jesus asks us to see even our enemies not as persons to be destroyed but as friends to be recovered by our love.
Image: “Diversity Mask” by George A. Spiva Center for the Arts is licensed under CC BY 2.0.