January 20, 2015
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is from Mark 9:38-41.
John said to him “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”
To me this means that we are not to be exclusive. None of us “owns” the faith, none of us have the whole truth. Jesus came to be with all of us, to minister to all of us, to love all of us, to ask all of us to follow him. He didn’t ask us to ascribe to a specific creed; he didn’t establish a church or even a religion. He came as the embodiment of God’s love for us, His forgiveness, and His desire for us to bend our selfish will to His own.
Jesus is teaching tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness. We have a tendency to exclude others who are not like us, who do not think like us, or worship like us. This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught his disciples. Unfortunately, we have ignored or repudiated his teaching in every generation and every culture. In so doing, we have committed unconscionable violence against one another. And somehow we have justified it — even justified it in his name! We still do.
There are no others. We are all children of God, created from His love. As such, we are to receive one another as Jesus taught in the preceding passage. It’s at first astounding that John so quickly forgot that teaching and is complaining about someone who is for Jesus, who is invoking his name to accomplish good for another. But I do the same thing. I’m quick to criticize or question those who don’t believe just as I do. There are some faith expressions that I completely close my mind to like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They, too, are for Jesus, though, not against him. Who am I to judge who belongs in the kingdom of God? I like what Barclay writes about this, “The basis of tolerance is simply the realization of the magnitude of the orb of truth….Intolerance is a sign of both arrogance and ignorance, for it is a sign that a man believes that there is no truth beyond the truth he sees.”
I have my own reality, my own truth. We each do. Jesus is reminding me today that actual reality and truth is much greater than that. I need to keep that in mind especially the next time I disagree with someone or fail to accept them or their beliefs. They, too, probably have a piece of truth that I can learn from so as to broaden my understanding of God’s truth. That’s tolerance rather than arrogance and ignorance.