Sometimes, we’ve just had enough. Whether it’s pressures from work, school, family, traffic, or even lines at the grocery store, life can have a tendency to really get on our nerves.
Just the other day Laura and I were in the drive thru line. At this particular fast food place there are two lines. Like most people, I try to get into the shortest of the two. I observed both choices for a moment, saw my opening, and took it. As I sat at the box where they take your order, I heard the cashier take the order of the person at the other speaker. After they finished, I waited.
The next car, the one that was behind me, drove up to that same speaker. They took his order too, but my line was still not moving. Cayden started saying, “Food? Food? Fries? Juice?”
Tensions were mounting.
“I’m going to call down fire from Heaven to consume this restaurant and everyone in the other line.”
Now, I didn’t actually say this, but whatever was going through my head was probably just as harsh. Regardless, my order was finally taken, and the guy who was behind me in line ended up having to pull up to the third window while I got my food at the second window, so who’s the real winner here anyways?
Our world moves so quickly that when our Netflix video buffers, our fast food is just a little too slow, or our package gets here in three days instead of two, then we can get frustrated. We cuss, we yell at the minimum wage employee, and we may even just call down fire from Heaven.
Other frustrations are a bit more serious like drama at work, trouble in a family, or even disagreements at church.
Sometimes, we may just throw our hands in the air and say, “I’m just going to call fire from Heaven and get it over with already.”
But is that what God does with us? Think how frustrating it must have been for God to see Nineveh behave the way they did? Or for Jesus to be rejected by His own people? Or for us to mess up as much as we do?
Yet, God doesn’t strike us down every time we make a mistake. He doesn’t send fire from Heaven every time we screw something up.
This isn’t how people have always viewed God though. Remember Jonah? He sat on the hillside just waiting for God to blast the people of Nineveh. Thank God that Nineveh was judged by God’s mercy, not Jonah’s wrath.
Of course, there are still people who view God this way. My dad was telling me a story about why they ended up leaving a church close to where they live. One of the Bible class teachers announced that someone close to the church died of cancer. He lamented, “I just don’t know what she did for God to punish her like this.”
But Jesus reveals a different way of viewing God. Hebrews says, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…” (Hebrews 1:3). John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).
How do we know the Father? We look to Jesus.
He said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14:7).
Maybe the reason John wrote so much about love in his account of the gospel is because it was something that he struggled with. In fact, when you listen to your preacher, pastor, or Bible class teacher, pay attention to the things they talk about most: it may just be something that they struggle with or are wrestling with in their own life. I know that’s been true for me at times! You may even be able to encourage them.
In Luke’s gospel account, he talks about a series of events which show that even Jesus’s closest disciples didn’t always “get it.”
First, Jesus tells them that He is going to die, but they did not understand what He meant (John 9:43-45).
Then, they began arguing about who would be greatest among the disciples. We know from other passages that James and John (and their momma) were at the center of many of these discussions (Luke 9:46-48).
After that, John speaks up and points out how there was a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus, but since he wasn’t part of their crew, John rebuked him and told him to knock it off (Luke 9:49-50).
Finally, on their way to Jerusalem, they made plans to stay in a Samaritan town, but the people wouldn’t receive them. Hospitality was a big deal to people in the first century, like in the parable of the midnight visitor (Luke 11:5-8), so the disciples were understandably frustrated. James and John come up with a good solution, one that was based on their perception of who God is and how the kingdom works: “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54).
Jesus then rebuked them, and some manuscripts include what He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55–56).
All of their misunderstandings in this pericope reveal a misunderstanding of the nature of God and His kingdom: kingdom life means laying down your life, understanding that everyone is equal, realizing that everything isn’t an “us-and-them” situation, and that love and mercy triumphs over judgement.
The last part of verse 56 demonstrates what we need to learn to do: “And they went on to another village.”
Sometimes life can be frustrating. Nothing goes our way, and we just want God to end it all. But instead of calling fire from heaven to obliterate the Honda Civic going ten under the speed limit, the poor cashier at Wal-Mart who is swamped with holiday shoppers, or the person at church who causes you all kinds of grief, go on to another village.
This may mean changing the perspective from which you’re viewing the situation. It may mean having an uncomfortable conversation to reconcile your differences. You might need to take a break from that person, which might mean different things in different situations. Or maybe it’s time to literally go on to another village.
While sometimes we want to call down the wrath of God onto someone, even someone who we may think actually deserves it, we should desire love, mercy, grace, and even salvation for everyone, even our harshest of critics.
As Jesus taught, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).
When it comes to this subject, I feel like Paul, the chief of all sinners. My patience sometimes runs very thin, and while I do a good job of internalizing a lot of that, I still have those John moments. But, like John, I’m trying to allow Jesus to explain God to me. I’m trying to die to myself and allow Jesus to live in me. I’m trying to consent to God and His Spirit who works in me. But, like everyone else, sometimes I just want to call fire from Heaven and get it over with.