In this reading, Jesus sends seventy followers ahead of him to share the news that the kingdom of God has come near. At the core of his instructions is the word peace – specifically God’s peace –shalom, which can be translated as well-being or wholeness. The first thing they are to say when they enter a house is, “Peace to this house.” He goes on to say that whoever shares in that peace will receive the followers’ peace, but if they don’t, their peace will return to them. What this tells us is that if a person isn’t receptive to the followers’ message, that does not diminish God’s peace that dwells within them. Rather than react with anger and judgment, Jesus’ followers are to continue to be present in the house, receiving whatever hospitality is offered them.
I wonder if Jesus knew that sometimes actions are more convincing than words. If someone was wishing us the peace of God, but then cursed or condemned us when we were uncertain or had questions or even pushed back a little, we might have a hard time trusting their words. Alternatively, if someone was wishing us the peace of God and we didn’t receive it whole-heartedly right away, and they stayed with us peaceably, not harping, but just being present? That might have a completely different outcome. Jesus understood people. He knew these instructions were important for his disciples then and they’re important for us now. They speak of being responsive in a world that is so reactive.
Can you think of a time when someone challenged or scoffed at your beliefs, whether it was your beliefs around Jesus, around certain social issues, around politics? In that instance, did you respond or did you react? Did their lack of receptivity affect the way you treated them or related to them? What wisdom do you find in Jesus’ instructions for situations like these?
In prayer, ask God to continue to fill you with the peace that passes all understanding.