Beware of Dog - A Reflection on Matthew 7:6,12-14
“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
All Christians are called to be evangelists. Some folks think that an evangelists job is to convert people. It isn’t. We don’t have to convert anyone. Everybody has the right to choose to believe whatever he or she wants to believe, be it a religion or a philosophy, and we have to respect that. What is the evangelist’s job then? It is merely to share our faith, and the reasons for our belief. It is up to people to accept it as the truth, or not. Some will; others won’t. That’s how it works. What are we to do when people don’t?
In Matthew 10, Jesus offers specific advice. I paraphrase. “Whenever you enter a home or town, give it your greeting. If the home or town 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, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Shaking the dust off one’s feet is a way of saying that I have done all I can, and now no longer carry any responsibility for the consequences to follow. It’s like saying, “I wash my hands off the situation.”
We find Paul taking this advice seriously in his ministry. Once when he was in Pisidian Antioch with Barbabas, he spoke the word of God to the people. Scripture says that “when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord” but “the Jewish leaders incited the men and women of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went on to another place. (See Acts 13:48-50).
We find something similar happening when Paul was in Thessalonica. When he proclaimed the word, the Jews agitated and stirred up the crowds. Paul immediately left. (See Acts 17:13-14). And again when Paul was in Corinth. “When they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6).
We can understand Jesus’ warning about not giving what is holy to dogs and not throwing our pearls before swine in this context. Not everybody is going to accept the gospel message, which is holy and precious. While some will reject it outright, others might turn hostile and violent. We should recognize the latter and leave them be. Let them suffer the consequences of their actions.
We have done our part.