Why does Jesus instruct the disciples to shake the dust off their feet when met with those who do not welcome them or listen to the Gospel? How many times have you given someone advice they didn’t follow or tried to reason with someone who is irrational or shared the Gospel with someone only for them to reject it? Our lives are full of situations and people we cannot control. What are we to do to keep it from destroying our peace?
Several years ago a man from Louisiana came to teach the staff where I work how to improve customer service. I must say, his metaphors weren’t really relatable for a room full of Bay Area urbanites, but one thing I will never forget him saying, partially because it was so absolutely unexpected, was “don’t wrestle a pig.” His statement was supposed to address a difficult customer. What happens when you wrestle a pig? Well, I’ve seen my niece do it. She was trying to catch the pig, so she got in the pen, approached the pig slowly, bent down, and wow, did that pig ever take off as fast as he could go. So my niece did what any young farmer would do, she tried to corner the pig. It turns out this pig was too small to corner because he ran right between her legs. Seeing my niece’s frustration, my sister got in the pen to help. Well, that just made things more complicated. When she finally did catch the pig, she could only hold on to him long enough to take a photo, and then the pig was off again, the whole time squealing as loud as he could.
Perhaps trying to convince someone of the truth when they’ve already made up their mind or decided they don’t care, is like wrestling a pig. It’s no use! You just get your feet dirty. Maybe that’s why Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they’ve met someone who doesn’t welcome them or listen to the Gospel message.
Jesus knew that if the disciples tried to control the person or town they were trying to influence, they would only push them further away and cause themselves more pain. That’s why this is mentioned several times in the New Testament, three of which are in Matthew 10, Mark 6, and Luke 9. If you’re like me, you even lose sleep over a disagreement, misunderstanding, or situation you can’t control even if you have tried time and time again to reconcile. We cannot always agree on everything, and just because we wish we could all get along doesn’t mean we actually do get along. Even Jesus didn’t get along with everyone, and we know he was sinless. Sometimes getting along is the worst thing you can do because sometimes the right thing to do stirs up controversy. Sometimes the right thing to say is too hard for the other person to hear.
Those are the instances when we must press on and shake the dust off our feet because, as your mother always said, it’s simply not healthy to go to bed with dirty feet. It’s simply not worth giving up our peace.