“But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”
-Matthew 10:6-7, 14, KJV (Quotation marks and red highlighting of Jesus’ words added)
“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”
And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
-Luke 9:5-6, KJV (Quotation marks and red highlighting added)
This Scripture came to my attention recently during a discussion on Chump Lady on the issue of forgiveness. In particular, it was a comment by “Rarity” that suggested we leave the Other Woman (or Other Man) when dialogue towards repentance is not feasible that inspired this post.
I think the “shake the dust off” principle works on many levels. And I believe Christians who have a sanitized, passive picture of Jesus miss this principle and its application to situations dealing with hard-hearted individuals.
The preaching and teaching of forgiveness without repentance is all too prevalent.
First, I want to point out that Jesus was giving this instruction to His disciples as they ministered to Jews. In other words, Jesus was telling His disciples to kick off the dust of the place if God’s own covenant people rejected them and their message. This principle–by extension–then applies to how professing Christians respond to the truth as well.
Second, the instruction to shake off the dust from their feet had a very grave meaning. Matthew Henry explains regarding the disciples following such instructions,
At their departure they must shake off the dust of their feet in detestation of their wickedness. The apostles must not so much as carry away the dust of their city with them, as a denunciation of wrath against them. It was to signify that God would shake them off. They who despise God and his gospel shall be lightly esteemed. (pp 1253, emphasis in original)+
What about forgiveness? It seems that God takes people’s choices to refuse to hear the truth seriously. And the expectation Jesus presented was one of Judgment for those who rejected them and the gospel.
Jesus does teach forgiveness, but…
He also teaches fiery judgment for those who choose to harden their heart and reject the truth.
How does this apply to situations where adultery has taken place?
First, I think it instructs us that a point comes in sharing and rebuking a sinning brother or sister when God wants us to walk away and “kick off the dust.” It is a call to disengage and leave them to God’s judgment. Think of this step as following the old Polish proverb: “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”
Second, we may have to treat another Christian in this same way if they choose to resist the truth about how God does not tolerate adultery nor blame its victims in the slightest. Jesus was sending the disciples to talk to other Jews. He did not send them to the pagans. And He did not send them to the Samaritans even.
These instructions were about how to deal with stubborn, unteachable people already in the covenant family. Such individuals still exist in the present day “covenant family” known as the church. So, it stands to reason that we may have to follow Jesus’ instructions sometimes as well in dealing with unteachable Christians and “kick off the dust from our feet.”
Finally, the expectation of judgment upon those who reject the truth as revealed in Scripture is not ungodly or un-Christian. I fully expect my ex and her cohorts with face God’s judgment over what they did and their failure to repent–as far as I can tell–when given ample opportunities to do so. Their “dust” is off my feet, so to speak. I do not want even a speck of their wickedness touching my feet.
It does not make one unforgiving to follow Christ’s teaching on such matters. You are simply bearing witness to the spiritual reality that Jesus taught. A failure to repent or to listen to the gospel will result in serious judgment for those refusing God’s gifts.
If that sounds harsh, it is only so because we are adverse to recognizing and accepting that God demands righteousness, holiness, and repentance. God is loving and forgiving like the slain lamb He is, but God is also a lion who demands holiness and justice!
Their dust, Shake it off!
+Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary: In One Volume: Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961.