If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. – Matt 10:14
Jesus gave this instruction to his disciples as he sent them out, two by two, to heal the sick, raise the dead, and proclaim the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. At first glance, this seems to be a rather odd instruction. Even in its historical and cultural context, its still odd.
When the Jewish people returned from visiting a foreign land, they would “shake the dust from their sandals” so that the land of Judea would not be ‘polluted’ with dust from Gentile lands. What makes this passage more interesting is that Jesus gives them the specific instruction to go only to the people of Israel and not to the Gentiles or the Samaritans.
Understanding that, this instruction seems to be Jesus’ way of saying that those who refused His message were to be cut off so that they would not pollute those who believed the Good News.
While we may think something like shaking out your shoes is silly, in 1st Century Jewish culture, and even today, symbolism and symbolic gestures such as this were very powerful.
How does this apply to us, today, in the 21st century? Simple, really. It should apply to us when we run across people who are so heavily invested in their own world view that they use it as a pedestal to look down upon others.
If there’s one thing that can really get my blood boiling it’s self-righteousness. Truth be told, I’ve been guilty of this plenty in my life. It is something that is constantly at the forefront of my mind, and something that everyday I am intentional in trying to avoid.
Do I always succeed? Ummm..not by a long shot.
Now, it’s not really a secret that some of the things I believe are unconventional, at best, and that questioning my own beliefs and the beliefs of others is something I see as necessary. It’s necessary in order to strengthen my own faith, to ‘tend my garden’ so to speak, so that I avoid taking a position where I not only think I’m right, but I think there’s no way I could be wrong.
To me, an essential part of humility is the ability to accept the possibility that you (I) could be wrong.
Part of that possibility is learning to ‘shake the dust from my shoes’ when disagreements occur.
Today, someone I know took a few gratuitous pot-shots at a couple I care deeply for. This couple is working through their faith, confronting their doubts, asking questions, challenging presuppositions, and doing their best to simply love their neighbor as Jesus commanded. You know, just like it says in the Gospel of John:
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:35
Yet, when I asked this person what they meant by that intentionally sarcastic pot-shot, the answer was:
“Just what I said. Maybe you could be their ‘pastor’.”
Yes, “scare quotes” were involved.
All this over a doctrinal disagreement about the nature of Hell. The pastor that dared disagree on Hell was called a fool, an idiot, and a fake….along with those he pastors to.
Honestly, this is the first time I’ve been ‘scare quoted’ and it sort of set me back.
So, I thanked him for the scare quotes and said that if by living in God’s grace and trying to share that grace by trying to imitate Christ that some of the things I say tend to upset “those that think they are righteous” then I must be on the right track. I wished him grace and peace…..
…..and then I shook the dust from my sandals and continued in my walk of faith.