by Colleen Fitzpatrick
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Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? (Luke 9:54)
I love writing – the tussle to get the right words that have exactly the meaning I want to communicate, whether it be to say thank you for something I have appreciated, to convey my disagreement with an opinion, to let someone know I am feeling sad or acknowledge the sadness they are feeling. Words can do that!
I remember once when a colleague from another organisation had overstepped a boundary. I sat down at my desk and constructed a carefully – or maybe even cleverly – worded letter I was prepared to send off to let this person know just what they had done wrong. Before sending it, I asked a wise mentor to check it. He read it through, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘You must send this in the right spirit’. I stopped and thought about it. I concluded that maybe a softer touch was needed and fire and brimstone raining down on the recipient was not conducive to an ongoing relationship. These days, I often reflect on that.
I wonder how it was for the disciples back then. They were preparing the way for Jesus, and it must have come as a sharp disappointment when the residents in this village turned down the opportunity to receive Jesus. I can imagine the righteous indignation and the wish to punish such inhospitable people. But that was not what Jesus wanted. And I like to think that this village had another opportunity to welcome Jesus and that they came to a different conclusion. No-one was hurt by the refusal of hospitality, and the action of moving on did not destroy a potential relationship.
Our words and actions are so important when we are relating to others. If we take time and think about those who may be irritating us or making us angry and resist the urge to take out that anger on them, we may well open up new opportunities for sharing Jesus’ love, or as the hymn writer says:
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from thee.
Let us pray in the words of Psalm 51. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Amen.