(Mt. 10:13-14) Isn’t it cruel to not pursue unwilling people?

CLAIM: Jesus said, “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet” (Mt. 10:13-14). Isn’t it cruel to refuse people the gospel?

RESPONSE: A number of observations can be made:

First, WE aren’t refusing THEM, but rather, THEY are refusing US. Since the person “does not receive you,” you take your message elsewhere. If the person wants to be our friend (but doesn’t want to hear about Christ), then this is really not a true friendship. As believers, Christ is the center of our lives. How can we really connect with others without discussing something that is at the center of our lives?

Second, believers who consistently pursue unwilling people often have an over-emphasis on human agency. We cannot change a person’s mind. That’s God’s role—not ours. We don’t mean to imply Calvinism in this statement. Rather, we deny that we should have a messianic complex in trying to reach people. What ends up happening in many situations is that the person’s heart becomes increasingly hardened as a result of our witnessing.

Third, believers have finite time and energy. Others are probably missing out, because you’re spending so much time with a hardened person. Paul Little rightly states, “We will discover so many people who are interested in spiritual reality that we won’t have to force ourselves on people who are not interested.”[1]


[1] Little, Paul E. How to Give Away Your Faith. Chicago: Inter-Varsity, 1966. 36.