Jesus confronts ‘cancel culture’

There is an odd incident in the ninth chapter of Gospel of Luke. Jesus was travelling and sent  messengers ahead to arrange accommodation in a Samaritan village. Jews and Samaritans did not get along and in this instance, they refused him hospitality.

Two of Jesus’ inner circle were outraged. James and John asked permission to “call down fire from heaven” to destroy the Samaritan village. Fueled by pride and prejudice, they wanted to send a powerful message. These Samaritans deserved to be cancelled – literally!

To their surprise, Jesus turned around and ‘rebuked them.’ That’s Bible talk for a severe dressing down. Then he led them on to another village for the night.

Conviction of our own moral and intellectual superiority, coupled with feelings of rejection, can result in responses that defy common sense or compassion. If you add a dash of fear and stress you have a particularly volatile mix.

That is what I think is happening in our country right now.

Pretty much everyone is worn out after months of illness, lockdowns and restrictions. Most of us have done what we think is required to get out of this, including getting vaccinated.

In order to increase the levels of vaccination our leaders have moved from a ‘carrot’ to a ‘stick’ approach. This has become a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ The vaccine-hesitant are lumped together with conspiracy theorists and hooligans who protest outside hospitals. Polls tells us that the overwhelming majority of Canadians not only support mandates but agree that people should lose their livelihoods for refusing to comply. ‘No job and no EI!’

It takes two to tango and some among the vaccine-hesitant can be offensive. But at this point they are in a clear minority and legitimately feel threatened as many powerful voices “call down fire from heaven” on them. If you were in their shoes, how would you feel?

Jesus models a better way of dealing with sharp disagreement. Jesus walked away from antagonistic people. He didn’t call down fire from heaven. He didn’t waste time and energy on ranting. Jesus kept sowing the good news of God’s reality and love.

And Jesus didn’t hold a grudge. What is one of Jesus’ best known stories? The Good Samaritan. Who was among the first to learn his secret identity? The Samaritan ‘woman-at-the-well.’ And what was part of his great command before ascending to heaven? ‘When you are sharing the good news, don’t skip Samaria!’ Apparently Jesus really loved Samaritans.

Even if they didn’t always do what he asked.

Opinion polls testify that, as a society, we need to be better than we are right now. Jesus shows us how.


Rev. Don McCallum serves as pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in Listowel.

Rev. Don McCallum