Shake the dust off your feet when you leave…

Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for this town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:11-16, NIV)

If there’s one thing I wish God would keep away from our free will it’d be selective reading. In the context of human behavior it seems to be that part of us that ignores all that causes discomfort or even change. It’s the stuff that’s most of the time is essential, yet we chose to not regard it as such. It’s what makes us almost Christians in the most important of times.For the past few weeks the words of Jesus from Matthew 10 can’t get out of my head. They’re like a mosquito bite – you’ve just thought it’s dealt with and then you accidentally touch it… There it goes again – itches for ages. I figured I must investigate deeper the question of Why do Christians seem to never give up trying to get people into heaven?

It’s a question not so much regarding the continuous carrying out of the mission of spreading the Gospel. It’s the issue of us not taking no as an answer. We go, tell people about Jesus and should we get a negative response, then we don’t move on but get stuck, doing everything possible to sneak the other person into heaven. Funny enough, this doesn’t seem to be our task. It’s not what we’re made for and it’s not what we’re responsible for. Our task is to get the message through as clearly and responsibly as possible – to plant the seed. It’s far beyond our job description to actually grow the plant and harvest the fruits.

As Jesus gives authority over deamons to the twelve and notes some other tips for their journeys, He makes one thing sure: if they accept you, stay and be a blessing to them; if they reject you – leave and leave for good. The shaking off of dust is where the power of the message lays. While Israel was a holy land, the land of the Gentiles wasn’t. This is why Jews would shake the dust off their clothes and shoes on leaving a Gentile area. It was a symbol of disregarding any connection with the pagans. So what Jesus is actually saying to the twelve is: if they welcome you, get in and do well; if they don’t – get away and make sure you let them know you’re not coming back. Outrageous, isn’t it? Paul and Barnabas actually did it, just have a look at Acts 13:51.

Today we seem to be carrying the responsibility for everyone’s salvation. When, in fact, all we’re responsible for is telling them about it. With time the Christian message seems to fade and mingle with culture because we’re trying everything and anything to somehow get them to believe it. How much clearer would the Gospel be if it was proclaimed but not imposed? Because imposing is exactly what we seem to be doing most of the time – through material things, relationships, even through changing our own selves. We just sit there and wait till the dude finally gives in and prays the prayer, quits smoking and starts a home group.

If we only were able to let the seed grow in its own time. If only we were able to make it clear that people who don’t welcome God won’t be welcomed in heaven, but in hell. If only we were able to get out of out market mentality – picking out only the fruits that are sweet and flowers that smell nice. If only we were able to shake the dust off when necessary.

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 Discussion (10)


“Why do Christians seem to never give up trying to get
people into heaven? ”

I surely hope, you didn’t mean, what this sentence literally carried. I dunno for you, but the gospel isn’t about “getting someone in heaven” or even in this reasoning, making sure you “get” something at the end.

The reason, you would carry on the message of Christ is to enable inner transformation in the heart of the individual. Our life experience on this earth is what if of concern, not some remote plausible ending.

What if there would have never been an heaven and life stopped after death? Would you have still carried the “gospel” ?

“It’s far beyond our job description to actually grow the plant and harvest the fruits.”

This is a bit easy Petar… you can’t blow up a message into the face of someone and carry out and not feeling like carrying on in that direction. The gospel in itself is an inert message, if not digged or lived. Surely you should not be hammering the head of someone, but if you plan an idea into someone else, you surely engage yourself and take part of “responsability” into what this person will do with this thought.

“If only we were able to shake the dust off when necessary.”

Petar, I surely get your “point”, even though I have to vividly disagree with this article, I advise you do some contextual and historical research on the village and situation in which both disciples and Jesus were… then maybe you will realize that your extended idea is thoroughly erroneous.

Don’t take the criticism harsh :), it is all said in love.


Petar Neychev

Ali, thanks for your comments man! I’m afraid though that you didn’t understand exactly what I meant. The sentence about getting people into heaven was a rhetorical question – it’s the something Christians should stop doing. “To get” somebody to do something is another form of “to make” somebody do something. The only difference is in the degree in which the first person obliges the second to do that something… Make somebody do something is much stronger than get. Get presupposes some willingness in the second person to do the thing.
Anyhow, with this sentence I’m basically saying the same thing as you said in your comment on it… We’re talking about the same thing here, just different wording. I’d only add that the aspect of life after death remains crucial to the Christian faith.

As for our job description… Perhaps I didn’t make myself very clear. I don’t mean tell people about Jesus, then pick up and leave. I was referring to the fact that many many Christians today carry the responsibility for the growing of a person’s faith and their ultimate salvation as their own… When I don’t believe it actually is. Yes, of course, we must disciple, care for and nurture in all ways possible the people, but at the end it’s not up to us whether they’ll be saved.
If I’ve done the best I could in proclaiming the Gospel (here I include discipleship, etc.) and people still refuse it (as some surely will), then I shouldn’t take it as my fault. It’s the other person’s choice and it’s his/her responsibility as well, as to what happens as a result of this choice.

As for the disciples shaking their dust off – they did it as a way of showing the greatness of the responsibility which the people of the village have declined by opposing and persecuting Paul and Barnabas. In other words, through this they told them – it’s an important thing you’ve just rejected and you’ll be accounted for it.
I believe that Paul and Barnabas’ actions are part of what makes the Christian faith clear, as opposed to much of today’s Christianity – bendy and shaky, trying to be comfortable for everyone, so that it’s accepted well…


In your words, “How much clearer would the Gospel be if it was proclaimed but not imposed?”

Awesome insight! So many times we want to drag people to the cross–kicking and screaming! Imposing our views on others just doesn’t work.

I feel similarly when the Church aims to “rules” for the world. Currently, in the United States, we’re battling who can use the word “marriage”. In complete contrast, most of God’s laws, admonitions, and guidelines in both the Old and New Testaments were directed to HIS OWN PEOPLE–not the unbelieving individuals of the world. In fact, the more that we attempt to impose our values on the “World”, the more we heighten everyone’s resistance. Let us REST in our own beliefs–without the need to force them upon others.

Good news! When we do our part–and let God do his part–what a burden that removes from our shoulders!

Thanks for your insight! (And, awesome photography.)

Petar Neychev

Hi Bill,

Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it really is amazing how much our way of living could change if we only let God do His part and we would strive to complete only what’s designated for us to complete. It’s a fine line, but it’s the perfect way (in my opinion) to let the seed grow in its own time and manner. We so often forget that we’re mere seed planters, not growers.

Very nice portraits on your site, as well ;)

I’m glad you found useful insight among my thoughts.


Hey Petar,

Are you in Bulgaria? If no, where? I’m in Ohio in the United States…but have a buddy that is leaving for Bulgaria with the Peace Corps in two weeks.


Petar Neychev

Hi Bill, I’m temporarily living in the Netherlands – for another half a year or so; after that I’ll be in Sofia, Bulgaria. I’m sure your friend will enjoy his trip – Bulgaria is a beautiful country (and not just cause I’m a Bulgarian :D).


Thanks for this! I was struggling with this…God wouldn’t tell me something that doesn’t align with His own word! lol Thanks so much for elaborating on this! Cuz that scripture has saved me from pushing a person in my family away…yeesh. Lesson learned…


Hey, thanks for your post. I hope you don’t mind, but I quoted (with reference and link) to a couple things you said to support some possibilities in my own post about the dusting off of the feet. Feel free to check it out if you like, this is not spam, just a thank you for your input, for it helped me wrestle with the passage some.

Petar Neychev

Andy, thank you for the reference! I read your reflection on the topic and I agree with your conclusions. Your thoughts on rejecting God vs. rejecting us are very very useful. I know that not many (esp. new) believers see it like that, so I hope that your message will reach more people. If we’re able to keep this balance then I think it will be easier for Christians to not become blind activists who act out of the rejection of others, but proclaim the Gospel as it ought to be done.

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