Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Curse of Lorenzo Dow

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town" Matt. 10:14.

In the 1800's Lorenzo "Crazy Dow" was a well known itinerant minister. An eccentric character with a booming voice, Lorenzo willingly took on the toughest crowds. No audience was unredeemable - until he arrived in Jacksonboro, GA.

In this rough frontier town, the resident lumbermen enjoyed a stiff drink or more after a hard day of felling trees. Lorenzo firmly believed that whiskey was the devil's water. A culture clash was inevitable.

Crazy Dow's appearance in Jacksonboro was ill-timed. Earlier that day the citizens learned that their town had been named the county seat, and the party was on. Lorenzo's attempt to preach to the inebriated crowd went poorly. After pelting him with rotten vegetables and telling him to go home, the revelers returned to the bars.

Undeterred, Lorenzo followed. Inside a local establishment he smashed a whiskey barrel spilling the contents on the floor. The drunks had enough. Crazy Dow found himself in the hands of an angry lynch mob. Salvation came in the form of a tee-totaling Mason, Sam Goodall. A well respected citizen, Goodall quieted the mob by promising to ensure Lorenzo would be gone in the morning. Grateful but irate, Lorenzo spent the evening at the Goodall residence.

In the morning a contingent arrived to escort the pesky preacher on his way. At the city limits Dow stopped his horse, removed his shoe and shook the dust from it. Because the townsfolk had rejected him, Lorenzo proceeded to curse the town. He called for its total destruction with the exception of the Goodall homestead. Today, the only vestige of Jacksonboro, GA is the Goodall home. Now, with the heat of the moment long gone, would Crazy Dow look back with a sense of smug satisfaction or profound regret? It appears his curse worked, but was it the right and/or scriptural thing to do?

Goodall Home, Google images
The disciples faced a similar situation in Luke nine. Furious at a rebuff from a Samaritan village, James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven and teach the inhospitable louts a lesson. Jesus responded with a stern rebuke - for his disciples and not the citizens. When He faced with an angry, murderous crowd Jesus set the benchmark high. He chose to forgive.

In his book, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus, author David Bivin provides insight into the culture of Israel in regard to traveling rabbis.

"Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself with the dust of their feet and drink in their words thirstly." (pg. 12)

Being covered by the dust from a rabbi's feet was an idiom that meant their teachings were to be taken to heart. Also, the Jonathan Mitchell translation of the New Testament gives the impression that this act also demonstrates to those who reject them, that Christ's emissaries have no ulterior motives. They're not looking to take anything away from anyone, particularly in this case, where even the basic courtesies afforded visitors were withheld. Rather than an injunction to write off individuals as potentially unworthy, Jesus wanted His disciples to leave behind a lesson in forgiveness and the correct way to handle rejection. In addition, the dust from His followers' feet contained their DNA, and marked the ground as Kingdom property.

By his own admission, Crazy Dow's curse was rooted in the people's rejection of him and not his message (which was about whiskey and not the Gospel). Personal rejection is the wrong barometer to gauge anyone's redemptive value. As far as I can find, the Gospel never made a foothold in Jacksonboro. In the ensuing calamities that hit the town, virtually destroying it, many innocent people were adversely affected. How many hearts slammed shut to the good news of Jesus Christ due to one man's reaction to being personally rebuffed?

How about you? When faced with rejection how do you react? How should you act? Does this example of the power of spoken words to destroy cause you to reassess the kinds of things you say? If so, how? Does Jesus' teaching to bless and not curse have new meaning for you?

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