YOU ARE THE MESSAGE
"'When you enter a home, greet the family, 'Peace.' If your greeting is received, then it's a good place to stay. But if it's not received, take it back and get out. Don't impose yourself.
"Stay at one home, taking your meals there, for a worker deserves three square meals. Don't move from house to house looking for the best cook in town. When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, 'God's kingdom is right on your doorstep!'" Luke 10:5-9 (The Message).
As one reads Jesus' instructions over and over, something begins to emerge about His strategy for infiltrating a community with the good news of God's kingdom. The first thing one notices is His respect for people's right to choose. He didn't insist that His disciples bulldoze their way in and force the message on people whether they wanted to listen or not. Everyone had the right to choose whether they accepted or rejected the messengers and their message.
'Test the water,' He said. How were they to do that? They were to do it in the disposition of Messiah. 'Say hello,' He said but, at the same time, their "hello" conveyed something far deeper than just a causal "hi". "Shalom", translated "peace" was both a greeting and a prayer. Shalom is the essence of what God desires and does for those who believe in Him and entrust their lives to Him. His work of restoration produces an inner peace and a wholeness that He intended everyone to experience from the beginning when He created mankind.
If a family responded positively to their greeting, they were to stay there and share the life of that family for the duration of their stay. It was part of Hebrew culture to show hospitality to strangers. It was accepted that a friendly greeting would indicate an open door and a family's generous attitude towards their guests.
Should the greeting not be returned, they were to move on without making a fuss. It was everyone's right to choose, and they were not to react ungraciously by retaliating when they were refused hospitality.
They were to receive what was given to them as graciously as their hosts gave and not move on if they were not satisfied with the quality of the hospitality. Being in a home gave them opportunity to interact with the family and minister to their needs, including healing their sick and sharing the good news of God's kingdom.
The overall impression one gets from Jesus' instruction is that He was advocating personal interaction with the people of that community. He was not about setting up a big healing and preaching campaign, inviting people to a gathering in the village square. It was about spending time in people's homes and entering into the family's life for a while, infiltrating the community with more than just preaching. He was always about being the message, not just telling it.
One cannot dissociate the message from the messenger. Jesus' way is so unlike the ways of the world, and especially the ways of religion which tries to impose and force its ideas on people whether they like to or not. The message and the messenger are inseparable. It was the message personified in the life of the messenger that would persuade people of the truth, not force it on reluctant or sceptical hearers.
Jesus illustrated the kingdom's power to infiltrate and transform society in His story of the women who mixed yeast into a lump of dough. He didn't tell His disciples to leave it to the suitably qualified "professionals" to preach the gospel. He sent all His followers out to spread the good news everywhere that God's way is the best way to live.
It's by both life and lip that God's kingdom comes alive in a community and brings it closer to God's original idea of a family living together in "shalom" -- harmony and wholeness.
Are you doing that?
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