Jesus Walks In Galilee
John 7:1 MKJV After these things Jesus walked in Galilee, for He did not desire to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.
Jesus goes where He is welcome. When the Judean Israelites (the Jews) sought to kill Him he did not say, “this people are so far from God and so much need salvation that I will stay here and take the risk.” Instead Jesus went where He was welcome – to Galilee.
Just this week two friends of mine in Manila have received specific and highly credible personal death threats from Muslims. In other parts of the letters they were sent, all workers among Muslims in the Philippines were threatened with holy war and terms like “blood will flow” were used repeatedly. I am included in this second group of threatened people though my personal assassination is very unlikely as I now live in Los Angeles.
What do I do? Does my organization soldier on? Do we withdraw? How much risk can I ask my co-workers to take? Do we “move to Galilee”?
Underneath all this is the question: “Is the salvation of murderous Muslims really that important?”
Jesus instructs His disciples thus: Luke 10:10-12 MKJV And into whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, going out into the streets say, (11) Even the dust of your city which clings to us, we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this that the kingdom of God has come near you. (12) But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
In other words we are to give all people a reasonable chance to hear the gospel, but if they do not wish to hear the gospel that is their problem – and a mighty big one!
The Christian worker is not a kamikaze pilot. As noble as suicidal courage may seem Jesus did not indulge in it – until He knew he had to, in order to complete His work. Martyrdom is never a prominent theme in the New Testament and is never specifically encouraged. In fact the general injunction is “flee”!
Matthew 10:23 MKJV But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another; for truly I say to you, In no way shall you have finished the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 24:16 MKJV Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.
Matthew 2:13 MKJV And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and His mother and flee into Egypt. And be there until I bring you word, for Herod is about to seek the child to destroy Him.
Christian faith is primarily a way of peace that avoids conflict and steers away from combative personal stances. The only deliberate human sacrifice called for in Scripture is Jesus Christ, and while most of the apostles laid down their lives for the gospel, they did not rush into such a fate like a Palestinian suicide bomber.
We may need to die in the service of Christ, but generally we should avoid it. Mostly we should do the sensible thing, the thing that Jesus did, and go and safely “walk in Galilee” for a while. God does not lay the salvation of the world on our shoulders. The Great Commission is merely to preach the gospel - saving the world is God’s job, not ours.
If God goes where He is welcomed then perhaps that is a good ministry strategy for us as well. Instead of struggling for years in a prickly and hostile church trying to make changes that are always resisted, a pastor should “go where he/she is welcome” even if that means working in secular life for a while. God has not obligated us to dwell in the midst of personal hostility – instead we are “called to peace” (Colossians 3:15, 1 Corinthians 7:15). God even hides His servants away from the fury of man - like Elijah by the brook Cherith.
For many years I have (wrongly) felt it to be cowardly, sinful and self-indulgent to seek peaceful circumstances or to desire “a quiet life in all godliness” (1 Timothy 2:2). This, I mistakenly thought, was “wimping out”! Yet peace is simply the set of circumstances that allows me to function as God made me to function. A bird is at peace in the air, and our cat is at peace sleeping on the top of my laser printer! Peace is dwelling in the state that God knows is best for us! (Which even may be very busy – but not hostile and destructive!)
Except in rare and exceptional circumstances we should not seek conflict and we should generally avoid hostile and personally destructive environments. This may mean dropping a sarcastic and abusive boyfriend or finding a better job. If living with a drug addict, an alcoholic or an abusive relative is personally destructive and overwhelming we can take some time out and “walk in Galilee”. Remember we are not required to redeem all mankind, or to “save” them no matter how obdurate and impossible and dysfunctional they choose to be!