Having the “right” spirit, as a Christian function, is a bit more than just “putting on” a “Happy Face.”
It takes some self-denial.
“But he (Jesus) turned and rebuked them (his disciples), and 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.’ And they went on to another village” (Luke 9:55-56, New American Standard Version).
This particular event is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke. The background of this text in the ninth chapter of Luke, seems to be a loose hodge-podge of Jesus traditions that were handed down in oral form that Luke preserved for us in writing his Gospel. It starts with the commissioning of the Twelve; the Feeding of several thousand; who Christ was; the Transfiguration; the deliverance of the demoniac child; “who is the greatest” in the Kingdom of God; and then, this account.
Many churches, church folks, and religious institutions who read this account do not “read” much at all into this context. It is treated superficially– like another day gone by.
I assure you nevertheless, that no day, even this day, was meaningless when you walked with Jesus.
I will explain further.
In the context, it appears that Jesus and his disciples had left Nazareth in Galilee on a Roman route (see yellow road on map below). This goes through eastern Samaria through Sebaste, as shown on the map below, near the Samaritan worship and ritual site of Mount Gerizim. It was getting late in the day, and Jesus and the disciples had been traveling on the road going south to Jerusalem. It was obvious that being Jews, that they were going to Jerusalem to any observing folks, as this was a common route.
Judea was kind of a low desert, but fertile, region. The days were always hot, and the roads were always dusty. It was different at night. The desert nights were pretty chilly, if not downright cold. It was not considered fun to be camping out in such an ill temperate region as Judea. Roman conscripts disliked the climate compared to the milder and enviable Mediterranean climes in which they were from. They even preferred the climate of Gaul, or France, Brittania, or modern England as a duty station, compared to Palestine. As a result, Roman military authorities conscripted Syrian soldiers, who lived in Northern Palestine, above Galilee as shown on the map above, to fill the ranks.
They were noted for their cruelty.
The disciples were not looking forward to spending the night out in the open, which Jesus had described once, as “no where to lay his head.” They wanted more comfort. They would have preferred a nice warm meal, with appropriate wine to enjoy. They would have liked shelter and a warm, soft bed mat. They were pretty disappointed when they were refused hospitality at this village of the Samaritans. In fact, it appeared that this rejection of the Samaritans was meant as a provocation to Jesus and his disciples.
It did provoke them. They were upset. They didn’t want to travel any further. They were tired and hungry. After all, they were Jesus’ traveling “miracle and ministry” troupe, and that made them nearly celebrities also, as Christ seemed to be, early on in his ministry. You see, who else was doing such healings and miracles as Jesus was doing? Who else could preach as he did? Jesus held crowds in his sway. Didn’t folks come from far and wide to seek out Jesus?
Didn’t the Samaritans know that Jesus was famous?
This shoddy treatment provoked the disciples enough to ask Jesus to invoke the powers of Elijah.
There are several implications in this account however, that should give us some unique spiritual understanding.
Here are the following implications that are derived from this account:
~ The disciples did not know what manner or kind of spirit that they had.
~ Jesus was content to let God deal with the rejection of the Samaritans that he and his disciples experienced.
~ Jesus was not interested in destroying them as the Disciples had cited in the historical account of the Prophet Elijah.
Elijah had commanded, on two occasions, as recorded in the first chapter of the Second Book of Kings in the Old Testament, that fire fall from heaven and consume a company of soldiers and their captain. It did both times. The third time, was apparently a charm though, and Elijah spared the third captain and his company, as the Angel directed him.
~ Obviously then, the disciples did not have the kind of spirit that they should have.
~ Obviously, the disciples did not have the right spirit.
They reacted with vindictiveness, to the point, that they wished to destroy these Samaritans. Samaritans were regarded with a good deal of enmity and reproach especially by religious Jews. You can read about this enmity to an extent in the account in the Gospel of John in regard to the woman at Jacob’s Well in Samaria (John 4:7-9; 21-23).
~ Such a spirit, or entrenched mind-set, was then– the wrong spirit.
~ The implication from this narrative then, is that there is a “right” spirit, and there is a “wrong” spirit.
How often do you have the “right” spirit?
How often do you have the “wrong” spirit?
It is important to know. Jesus thought it was. Having the “right” spirit means that you will be doing the “right” thing. Having the “wrong” spirit means you will be doing the “wrong” thing.
Jesus teaching on the “right” spirit. There should be a lot of teaching today on the same subject. But despite the myriad number of church services that I have attended, I have never heard anyone preach, or even speak on it. No matter how we may be offended, particularly from ungodly sources and perverse decisions of rulers, we need to maintain the “right” spirit, while maintaining God’s Word, His justice and righteousness. This can be a “fine” line.
Destroying a Samaritan village because a few of its elders were not happy that Jesus was going to return to Jerusalem the next day, may not have been the express will of the other villagers living there. We don’t know, whether this was or was not, according to this record.
But apparently, there would be innocent lives taken if the Disciples had their way. The “wrong” spirit would have done a very “wrong” action.
Based on the accounts in regard as to how the Jews in the first century viewed Samaritans in Biblical and extra-Biblical accounts, it would be safe to say, that many of the Jews then did not have the right spirit toward the Samaritans.
The Samaritans may have well reciprocated in kind.
Jesus wanted to do better than that. He had the “right” spirit. He had a different spirit. Jesus was looking at the “Big Picture.” He was not only the Saviour of the Jewish people,… but the Saviour of the whole world. This included– the despised Samaritans.
The rebuke by Christ over the disciples’ wish to destroy the village, apparently had the desired effect on his disciples.
The Disciples following this event, were not recorded by any accounts again, to ever despise the Samaritans to any great extent. Instead, Samaria was one of the first places in which the Gospel was spread to and preached at, following the persecution of the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 8:5-25).
Preaching to the Samaritans… that would be the “right” spirit. That would be the same spirit that Jesus advocated… “saving” the Samaritans… not “destroying” them. I think the disciple learned this lesson well. They pretty much had the “right” spirit after Jesus rebuked them.
When Jesus taught in one of his most celebrated sermons that we have an account of, he was teaching this quality of having the “right spirit.” Jesus talked about “loving your enemies.” This is having the right spirit toward those who dislike you or hate you. A lot of people get stumbled over this. The church ministries that I have heard suggest that Christians become “doormats” to wicked people, or selfish people who wish to take advantage of them. This is not what the Bible says. The word for love there, is not God’s love, it is another word meaning. It means simply to be courteous, civil, polite, perhaps kind as much as possible, and to show as much respect as possible.
Jesus was no doormat. Jesus did not grovel to anyone. No, he had the right spirit toward his enemies. He was courteous, polite, and civil. He was kind on occasion, too. He did not return hate for their hate; he gave them courtesy. Jesus had class. His reaction was elevated: not on the same level.
Jesus taught the same about “turning the other cheek;” “going the extra mile;” “giving your cloak.”
A lot of religious people, like the above illustration about loving your enemies, don’t study their Bible all that well. Jesus was not talking about Jewish people much here. Jews did not go “slapping people” around, or “manhandling” each other. Christ’s fellow Jews esteemed their neighbor. After all, it was commanded under the Law of Moses to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jewish people didn’t demand your cloak… that was stealing… that broke the Eighth Commandment of the Mosaic Law. Taking a fellow Jew to court as described in the Matthew account, for their cloak or overwrap for the desert nights in Palestine… that doesn’t seem quite logical, besides being a seeming waste of time when cloaks were plentiful in the market bazaars. Besides, if a person did not have a cloak or overcoat of sorts, he could catch pneumonia or cold illness as a result of the desert cold exposure. Was Jesus just using an illustration or did this particular line of translation get a rather poor interpolation, or faulty addition? A person going to law against one another was not that common in Jesus’ day. But it was common in Roman law, or in a Latin scribe’s or copyist’s way of thinking, who was a Roman citizen and had distinctive Roman laws.
The Luke account of the same in regard to the cloak reads only that “he that takes away your cloak forbid not to take your coat also” (Luke 6:29, KJV2000). There is no mention of a lawsuit.
No, I don’t think that Jesus was not talking about his countrymen.
He was talking about the Roman soldiers.
I said previously above that the Syrian soldiers, who were conscripted into the Roman army ranks, were noted for their cruelty. They did not like Jewish people much. If you looked at them funny, or made too much eye contact with one of them, they would haul off and smack you. They did this frequently. This is how they let the Jewish people know who was in charge– compliments of Imperial Rome.
The same with impressing you to walk, or carry their baggage, for a Roman stadia, or mile. We see an example of this impressment with the Simon, that the Roman soldiers forced to carry, the crossbeam of Jesus, on the way to Golgotha hill. Several modern translations acknowledge this mode of understanding in their translations nowadays such as the following:
“If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile– carry it for two miles” (Matthew 5:41, New Living Translation).
“If the military demand that you carry their gear for a mile, carry it two” (ibid, The Living Bible).
“And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles” (ibid, Good News Translation).
I think it is the same with the “cloak” business. The Syrian soldiers confiscated the cloaks or overcoats of the Jewish subjects. Nights in Judea, as noted already, were pretty darn cold. They had trouble staying warm. They frequently had fires to warm themselves at night. It was no trouble for these conscripts to relieve some Jew of their garments. They liked to humiliate the citizenry, unless of course, it was the class of the Jewish High Priesthood. They had a working relationship with them in keeping the overall peace.
In the context of this study then, Jesus was teaching not to respond to violence acts outright such as an “eye for an eye” et cetera, as under the Law of Moses, especially with enemy occupation forces. Being a doormat however, only encouraged more of the same.
Jesus was teaching a “third way.” You were to withstand evil… but with the “right spirit.” It was not passive or passive resistance. Jesus had even advised his disciples to “arm themselves” if they were to be apprehended by the Romans, instead of him.
You can let people know that you don’t appreciate their actions– effectively, by taking a higher road, or elevation of thought, nobility in suffering, and the quality of magnanimity.
The Mahatma Gandhi understood this.
He was asked about what he thought about Western, or rather what he was familiar with, British Civilization. He responded succinctly: “I think it would be a very good idea.” It is difficult to deal with such a spirit effectively. The British did not have the moral leverage to do so.
Gandhi suffered in quiet dignity, but fiercely resisted the evil of exploitation by British colonialism. He may have done things differently than what Christ taught. But Gandhi understood the “third way.” In the end, he succeeded. He overthrew the British yoke. The same happened with Christianity: it eventually overthrew the Roman Empire by its emperor, Constantine the Great, becoming a Christian professor of sorts.
The price of success of Gandhi though, was the same as the original “third way” practitioner, Christ. His own countrymen killed him. You see, you are more of a threat using the “third way,” or the “right spirit,” than any violent revolutionary.
Can we have the same? The right spirit?
HAVING THE “RIGHT” SPIRIT TODAY…
Obviously, having the “right spirit” is to avoid a negative or predictable response to a provocation. Hitting folks in the face, taking their overcoat, and forcing them to do things against their will without compensation, are all acts of provocation.
Anyone would understand your ire and need for redress in such provocations.
As a Christian though, as a practitioner of Christ’s “third way” however, you have to do things a little differently. Jesus touched on this in another part of the Gospels, when he said, “when you are in the way of someone who opposes you, agree with your adversary quickly,” as much as possible.
I have done this many times and it works each time that I am led to do so. The trouble or situation was diffused quickly. Even my adversary became confounded.
Having an unpredictable response, will do that type of thing, confound those with whom you are in conflict with.
Having the “right spirit” is to be void of, or the minimizing of rancor, unforgiveness, and bitterness, when dealing with conflict situations. You are always under some restraint or self-control when you maintain the right spirit. This self-control will always win out in the end. It takes a good amount of discernment in discerning yourself to maintain the right spirit and to avoid the wrong spirit such as anger, retribution, and “getting even.”
The disciples wanted to “get even.” Jesus “got ahead.” His view of the big picture and having the right spirit put him above in elevation, or ahead, of such conflict. Jesus was always “ahead” of the wrong spirit. That was one of the features of his character of being sinless– having the right spirit.
Having the “wrong spirit” is a recipe for destruction. It always incorporates some “work of the flesh” as listed in Galatians 5:19-21. There is never an ideal solution when in the “wrong” spirit. It ends in confusion and regret.
King David was a “man after God’s own heart” it is written (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).
David knew about having the right spirit. He failed God many times. Yet, because he sought such a right spirit, he was able to procure the mercies of God in which this became a byword, “the sure mercies of David.”
Here is what David said about having the right spirit:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10, King James 2000 Bible).
We can do the same today. We can ask God to renew the right spirit within us.
When we have the right spirit, we can also have the benefit of a “clean heart.”
Start living anew today… with God’s help, and renewal of salvation in this area, and having the “right” spirit. The Holy Spirit is here to help, as the “right” spirit is the basis of having the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks for reading.
Copyrighted. Joseph Spickard, 2014. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this intellectual property without prior permission from the author is prohibited.