“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Mark 6:11 NIV
Jesus was not one for giving up easily. He tells us to go the extra mile, even under duress, to forgive our brother or sister seventy times seven times. Yet here is this glaring anomaly. As his disciples we may need to leave a place so entirely behind us that we have to make sure we don’t even take a grain of its soil with us.
Obviously the shaking of the dust from our feet is a symbolic gesture, and Jesus is speaking figuratively, as was his way. But there is something to be gained in remembering that when a place or person needs to be left behind us, as occasionally happens, then we need to sever that association so totally as to not even be connected to the ground they walk on.
On social media, one is encouraged to disconnect from anyone who doesn’t agree with us, who “disses” (disrespects) us, to label people “toxic,” and disregard them when they are negative or difficult. I don’t believe that is gospel living and I certainly don’t think Jesus is talking about us leaving the broken behind us. If we don’t learn to live with, tolerate and even love the difficult or crushed among us, then how shall we accept or face our own shadow places?
No, this is the very specific and sad situation of leaving a place or person because they stubbornly refuse every help we offer. There is no point preaching to a congregation who already believe they know better than us, who dismiss us, who will take nothing we offer. In such a case, we are casting pearls before swine, and our words are just blowing away on the wind. Ties then, can be severed, and we must move on to more fertile ground. Ground is vital in this context, as we need a clean start, and to re-root ourselves in the love of God. If the soil we walk on has been made so dry and dusty that nothing can grow there, we need to shake it off and move forwards, under the Lord’s direction. A cause for sadness, but whilst there is no bleakness God cannot make green again, his servants must stay established in his love, and there is some ground where this is not going to happen.
Photo from Morguefile.com