Optimism in a Falling World- Luke 9:52-56

And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

COMMENTARY

And they did not receive him, and when James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
Yesterday I considered Jonah’s desire to destroy the wicked. Today we see an example from Jesus’s own disciples to do the same. Because Jesus and his followers were denied access to a city, James and John sought to kill all the inhabitants with fire.

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.

James and John might have believed they were serving the spirit of justice, yet Jesus avowed that they were serving another. What they sought was simply vengeance, and Jesus’s purpose was not to bring vengeance, but salvation.
I believe that many of those who hope for the destruction of the wicked take their cues from the stories of the Old Testament. It is in those early books that we read accounts of the earth being flooded, of fire and brimstone consuming cities, of the armies of the Lord stamping out other nations. In these stories there is a definite immediacy between evil actions and divine retribution. One could not go to war against God without quickly enduring the consequences of that action. But what is forgotten is that this was the Old Testament and the earth was in a fundamentally different situation than it is now. Mankind had been expelled from the Garden of Eden and the atonement had not yet been made. Things were far stricter, and there was little to buffer between sinful acts and the holy justice administered in return.
But Jesus Christ had come to be that buffer. Jesus Christ had come so that the immediate justice for evil works could be born out in his own body instead. Divine justice still applies, even to this day, but now it is executed in him, while mankind is given a second chance.
Thus today we now live under the New Testament. And that means that if we look at the evil in the world today and crave punishment for the guilty, we are denying the fact that that punishment was already endured by our Savior. We are therefore looking for a double punishment, one carried out upon Christ and one carried out upon those he died to save. That isn’t justice at all. Like James and John, we are not comprehending what manner of spirit we are of. It is a cold, cruel, and evil spirit, one that has nothing to do with Christ.

Optimism in a Falling World- Jonah 4:1-3

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

COMMENTARY

In my last post I considered the people of Nineveh, whom God had been preparing to destroy, but then He spared them when they ended up repenting of their sins and returned back to Him.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
And he said, Was not this my saying, when in my country? Therefore I fled: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
And Jonah couldn’t stand it! This is the first point in the story where it is explained why Jonah initially ran from the city of Nineveh. The natural assumption would be that he was afraid of the people, nervous that they would murder him for pronouncing doom upon them. But it turns out this wasn’t his concern at all. What he was afraid of was that God would show the people mercy!
Jonah wanted those people to die! He didn’t want to warn them about it and give them a chance to repent. He wanted them to stay wicked so that they would die.

Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live
Jonah is a miserable being. Throughout the rest of the book God patiently tries to get through to him, but we never do find out what became of the man in the end.
But my reason for bringing him up is because he is far from the only person to desire vengeance on the world. There are many who are excited to see our falling world burn. And I am not referring to people outside of religion, either. I have heard members of many churches who, like Jonah, were gleefully looking forward to the world getting what it deserved, intending to gloat over the suffering of the wicked.
Such may be surprised when the fiery brimstone falls from heaven and it is centered on their own home!

Optimism in a Falling World- Alma 17:12-14

And it came to pass that the hearts of the sons of Mosiah, and also those who were with them, took courage to go forth unto the Lamanites to declare unto them the word of God.
And it came to pass when they had arrived in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, that they separated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken.
And assuredly it was great, for they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.

COMMENTARY

The sons of Mosiah took courage to go forth unto the Lamanites to declare unto them the word of God.
And they had undertaken to preach the word to a wild and a hardened and ferocious people; who delighted in murdering and robbing and plundering.

It is remarkable to me what sort of people it was the sons of Mosiah chose to take their missionary efforts to. One would think they would look for a people that were already mostly in harmony with the gospel and preach to them, that way they would expect to have greater success, let alone a greater chance of survival!
But no, they went to the most corrupted people that they could, the people who hated them, the people that were furthest away from God. Of course Jesus’s disciples did much the same when they carried the gospel to the gentile nations, even to the same country that had carried out the execution of their master! They walked straight into the lion’s den, somehow expecting to accomplish good there.
And, remarkably, both the Nephites and early Christian missionaries absolutely did accomplish some good. Though they had trials, they also had great success. Because, as those early missionaries seemed to have understood, the people who are furthest from God are also the people who need God the most!