Today in our Sisters in Christ Bible study on Acts, we were discussing how Paul was often well received at first, then had the Jews turn on him (not unlike the experience of Jesus himself in the synagogue in Nazareth and elsewhere during his ministry.). Several verses were discussed.
Acts 13:50-52 (NRSV)
But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their re…gion. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 18:5-7 (NRSV)
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
We also looked at Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Matthew 10:14
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
After reading several translations of the verses and after all the discussions this week about resentment that Lynn Haven UMC members have had as a result of our current sermon series on “Common Enemies”, I was considering the fact that the instruction to shake the dust of naysayers off of one’s shoes and moving on is often referenced as a judgment against those who are resistant or inhospitable. But there is another value to it……in shaking the dust off of their shoes, they are making a physical statement of “shaking it off”, not taking any remnant of the rejection to heart or letting it continue with them as they move on. Any act of clinging to it or allowing it to cling to or follow as one leaves risks the opportunity for resentment to take root, reducing the focus, passion, and commitment that the disciples needed for the next person or community. According to the Word, there is no time to waste on trying to convince those who have hardened their hearts against the message one brings.