Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. Along the journey He neared a city of Samaria and sent his disciples ahead to make arrangements for them to spend the night. “But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:53) James and John, the “sons of thunder” were incensed and asked with anger, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54) But Jesus rebuked them saying, “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.” (Luke 9:55-56)
Why were the disciples so quickly provoked to anger? It was because of the rejection the felt from the Samaritans. The Samaritans not only rejected Jesus but James and John understood that they were rejecting them as well. It was this sense of rejection that provoked them to anger. Being provoked to anger by rejection is a common problem that goes as far back as Cain and Able. Cain and Able were commanded by God to bring an offering, yet “the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” (Genesis 4:4-5) Cain’s response was predictable. “So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:5)
We all will face rejection from time to time and, when we are rejected, we may be tempted to respond with anger, but Jesus showed us a better way. Speaking of His own life and death, Jesus said that the Son of Man must first “suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:25) Yet His response was not anger but forgiveness. As He hung dying on the cross, dying a death to pay the penalty for all our sins, He uttered these words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus was rejected by His own, yet He still chose to die a death that would pave the way for all mankind to be reconciled back to the Father. It was His love for mankind that enabled Him to respond with forgiveness in the site of their rejection.
There is a secret to loving others in spite of their rejection. We must understand that Jesus never called us to be loved by all people but rather to love all people. Our life is not about being loved by others but rather showing the love of God to those around us. We need to settle it in our hearts that there will be some who will not appreciate us, who will not love and accept us, and who will reject us. However, there is one in heaven who will always love us and “will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5-6) Love is not about what you get but about what you give. We can love others, even the unlovely and the unlovable, because He has first loved us. If we have the God who is love living in us, then we can love others with that same love. It is this kind of revelation that will help us not to be so quickly provoked by the actions, attitudes, and words of others.