Are you a “Son of Thunder?”
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Son of Thunder?” If you are like most people you are probably thinking about Thor, or Loki, or Odin, or Zeus, or Hercules or some other hero that comes from a form of mythology. All of these people are gods, or god-like. As such, being a “Son of Thunder” seems to be a good thing, at least at first. After all, who wouldn’t want the power of Thor or the wit of Loki? (Girls seem to be somewhat divided on this one).
However, some people might remember something about the phrase “son of thunder”. They might recognize the term for a reason they do not understand. Some obscure reference to something. Was it something they heard in school? In church? Or in their devotion time? Yup, there it is, the term “Sons of Thunder” comes right out of the New Testament. The problem is that I do not necessarily think the term was one of endearment. Instead, Jesus seems to use it more as a negative quality or as a form of correction. He is calling them out for a character flaw that they have and are currently displaying. The two guys who were given the name “Son of Thunder” are none other than James and John, two of the top three disciples.
This descriptor is given to them in Mark 3:17, and is never see again throughout the Bible. There is one story that definitely shows the two disciples exemplifying their names. Take a look at it in Luke 9:51-56:
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Do you see that? James and John were ready to smite the Samaritans to their graves! They wanted Sodom and Gomorrah 2.0 and said it with a matter of fact attitude. I have to admit, based on the way they confidently approach Jesus they genuinely believe they are asking the right question, and believe that with a simple prayer God would destroy their “opposition.” In reality, James and John are displaying an incredible amount of faith! However, their faith is blinded by their feelings. They were just hurt by the Samaritans and the only think they can think of is destruction. This was not God’s plan anymore. He was no longer going to destroy entire nations. He was transitioning people into a mindset of love and forgiveness. James and John, the Sons of Thunder, missed this and as such were rebuked among their peers by Jesus himself. Jesus was not bothered by the people who chose to freely reject him. Instead, he simply moved on to another village to share his truth and love.
I like to believe that after finishing their time with Jesus both disciples learned to harness their thunderous attitudes and use them to bring glory to God. This seems to be the case when we look at John. He eventually became known not as a Son of Thunder, but as the Apostle of Love (think John 3:16?). This does not mean that John loses his fiery passion, but he instead uses it to preach refinement to Christians who are not living the lives they should be. James on the other hand we know much less about. The book of James was written by a different disciple, Jesus brother. However, we do know that he was probably the first disciple to die for his faith (Acts 12:2). At the very least this shows that his faith remained strong as ever.
So those are the Sons of Thunder from the Bible, but who are the Sons of Thunder today? I think that we see a lot of them on social media, on the news, and in the tabloids. We may also find them at work, or school, or other social activities. I believe that a modern-day Son of Thunder is a person who is quick to judge and enjoys riling people up for the sake of debate and attention. An extreme example of a Son of Thunder might be the Westboro Church. They condemn all homosexuals to hell and believe that they deserve death as well as anyone who supports of enables them. This is a very misguided “faith” if they were doing it for that reason (most speculation points to the idea that they are the way they are because they have found out how to exploit American freedom into making money so I wonder about their faith in general). There are other examples of people who are far less extreme but still struggle from Son of Thunder syndrome.
Scroll through your Facebook newsfeed right now and you can probably pick out a few people who are being a bit over the top. They are spouting hate for something or someone who manages to start a debate or “conversation.” This is not to say that sometimes it is good to voice your opinion and speak in an open forum about things that you believe or feel passionately about. We should stand up for the things we believe in. However, we also need to be respectful to other people even if we think their beliefs are going to send them to hell. Likewise, we need to be humble enough to allow people to speak their opinion to us and have an open enough mind to see their viewpoint as well as have the ability to change our minds if truth and evidence proves us wrong. This is actually a very difficult mindset to be in because most people are very set in their ways and no amount of truth or evidence is going to convince them otherwise. It really comes down to knowing which battles we are supposed to fight, and which ones we should just leave behind and move away from. This is what Jesus did. Instead of picking a fight with the Samaritans or damning them to hell, he simple ignores them and moves on to the next city where he might be welcomed. We can waste hours of lives casting our pearls to the pigs when we could be spending those hours helping other people in some way.
The next time you are thinking about posting something that is controversial ask yourself if it is worth your time. How is it going to make you look? Is it going to hurt your witness? Also, the next time you see something that boils your blood, take a breath and ask God if this is a battle that is worth your time. If he is not with you as you enter the internet battlegrounds then you may end up doing more harm than good. You could even embarrass yourself and the next time you actually have something good to say people will ignore you. You are not called to be a Son of Thunder; you are called to be disciples of love.