Shaking the Dust Off for God

Reading for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost:

And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching. And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them. (Mark 6:1-13 KJV)

Something hit me about this story. Shake off the dust. Shake off the dust.

I grew up in an area where the soil was very sandy. As you drove along the road, you might see patches in the ditches where some sad was visible. To me, dirt was dirt. All dirt was sandy. Sand was not too bad to walk on or drive on after a gentle rain. When you got very sandy dirt on you, it was easy to stand up and brush off the dirt.

I remember my parents explaining to me that there were different kinds of dirt. As I got older, I started to experience the different kinds of dirt.

There was gumbo clay. Walking on wet clay is not fun. You feel like you are walking along with suction cups for shoes. Your shoes want to stick in the mud. You might feel like you have to pry each foot loose to walk. If you are not careful, you may find the mud is still holding your shoe and that your efforts to walk only resulted in your foot coming out of your shoe. Stepping into gumbo clay with only a sock on your foot is not fun! As you take steps, your shoes get bigger and bigger and bigger. The mud clings to your shoes and does not want to fall off. The mud is difficult to get off your shoes and clothes. When you’ve just come in from walking through thick, wet clay, everybody knows you’ve been in the dirt! You look like you’ve been mud bogging!

Some relatives of mine lived where the soil was red. As kids, we were warned that the red dirt did not easily come out of clothes. There was no way you could go out and play in the red dirt without your mother knowing just what you had been doing! Getting that red dirt out of a white shirt that you were only supposed to wear to church could was no mean task. For some reason that is totally incomprehensible to young children, that bothers mothers. Mothers don’t want the whole world to think their kids were playing in the dirt all day.

Back to the Biblical story – Shake off the dust.

The word translated dust in Greek has the meaning of rubbish and dirt.1 The word is also used to refer to the dirt or dust people put in their hair in grief or mourning.2

Picture a crown of dirt for just a moment. A gross thought? For sure. Looks gross. Feels gross. Probably smells gross.

Shake off the dust. God does not want God’s children to wear a crown of dirt! The Eternal does not want gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans Christians to wear the dirt of homophobes and transphobes as a personal crown! Our Creator does not want women to wear the crown of dirt given to them by men who refuse to recognize the equality of women. The Ruler of the Universe does not want people of color to wear the dirt of racist attitudes. Nor does God want the elderly to wear the dirt of ageist societal values as a crown.

Shake off the dust. The crown the Eternal has in store for you is not a crown of dirt! The Lord’s children, regardless of race, income level, social status, gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation are not to live in a constant state of mourning and grief.

Shake off the dust. Your personal burdens, are heavy enough. You do not need to carry tons of gumbo mud from the shoes of an entire unjust society on your head. You cannot walk or run for the Lord with that much weight. When you shake off the dirt, you do not have to worry about carrying around other people’s burdens, or the stains of their dirt on your clothes.

Shake off the dust. Walk away from the fears, bitterness, unforgiving attitude, poisonous concepts of God, condemnation and judgment people have heaped on your head. And see the difference in your Christian walk. Leaving other peoples dirt behind is a testimony to your Christianity, to the depth of your faith. The testimony of a person who has walked through the valley of the shadow of discrimination and injustice without becoming bitter, twisted and angry is a powerful testimony that it cannot easily be written off or discounted.

The King James says shaking the dust off their feet is a testimony against those who reject the disciples. I prefer the wording of the American Standard Bible and the old Geneva Bible. The American Standard Version says that when the disciples shake off the dust, it is a testimony unto them. The old Geneva Bible says it is a witness unto them.

The stronger the rejection, the more powerful the witness. That is why queer Christians are becoming a powerful force for God! When Christians live out the faith with loving service to humanity, their lives are a testimony that convicts those who rejected them. And their lives serve as a testimony to those who witnessed the persecution they endured as they served the Lord faithfully.

Shake off the dust. The task is easier said than done. The Greek word translated shake off has the meaning to shake violently.3 I get the picture of making a very conscious, dedicated effort to get rid of the dust and dirt. Fortunately, God is up to the task. Just as surely as the Eternal made a powerful witness out of Jesus life, God is working in your heart to make your life a powerful testimony for humanity by using relentless grace to shake off the dust of rejection you’ve walked through.

  1. Rick Meyers. e-book – Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries. e-Sword. Version 6.5.0 Computer Software. (Leiper’s Fork, TN –
  2. Spiros Zodhiates. The Complete Word Study Dictionary. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Pub., 1992),1478.
  3. e-book – Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.