“But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 18:6)
Paul was preaching to his fellow Jews and facing tremendous resistance. Paul “shook out his clothes in protest” and left them to preach to the Gentiles. Jesus, in the Gospels, couldn’t do much ministry in His hometown because of the resistance He was facing. When He (Jesus) sent out the twelve to preach the Gospel, He told them to go stay in the nearby towns that accepted them, but to shake the dust of their feet and leave the towns that rejected them. Most theologians use verses like this when talking about evangelizing to the world around us. We need to keep sowing seeds, but we must be wise enough to know to move to the fields that are growing so we can ready ourselves for harvest. Sometimes, we may have to leave a certain group of people because they are not ready to hear the Gospel. This evangelism model has been described as, “Always sow seed, but focus on growth and harvest.”
But what do you do when the group you are getting resistance from is the church and not the unbelieving world around you? Can we, should we, follow the same model? Should we “shake out our clothes and the dust off our sandals” and leave for growth and harvest? This is a touchy question. Why? Because the church as a group is not supposed to act as a force of resistance within itself. The church is supposed to be in homothumadon (one mind). The church should be united and and in a state of peace, not divided and at odds. I encourage the following steps when considering moving away from the resistance faced within the church. First, make sure that you are living in a state of repentant grace. Second, make sure that you are actively removing specks from your own eyes before pointing out the specks in others’ eyes. Third, make sure that you follow the steps of Matthew 18 to deal with the conflict. Fourth, give the process some time. Remember that God is patient and long-suffering. Last, if the resistance continues after all these steps, it may be time to move toward growth and harvest. We need to be good stewards of the time, talents and treasures God has blessed us with. Let’s do what we can to stay faithful to God’s calling on our heart, and let’s accept the fact that sometimes we need to leave the resistance, rather than lead it.