“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50
In the Old Testament, the prophets faced adversity from their own people. As they went out and shared what the Lord had told them, their lives were at risk. They weren’t heroes. The people of their times weren’t listening to them in an effort to know God better. Those men were ridiculed and threatened with punishment, even to death. Still while they certainly weren’t well received, the major threats came from the outside. God’s people were always in danger from people who did not follow Him.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles, all faced the same ridicule and harassment from people who were supposed to share the same beliefs. The people of Jesus’ time clearly didn’t embrace His message. The threat from the inside grew much stronger. Small differences in viewpoint grew legs and took over, causing the death of Jesus and His disciples.
Look at it. The much of the adversity is not coming from the outside. It isn’t people with dissimilar beliefs. The people of the Old Testament chose other gods. The people of the New Testament chose different paths but all of them are fully aware of the Most High God. Especially in the New Testament, the Pharisees and Sadducees saw themselves as followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Neither the Pharisees or the Sadducees believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They hated him but that didn’t make them agree with each other. They may have had a common enemy but they weren’t friends. Dissension among the ranks, if you will, was just getting worse.As time goes on, the biggest battles aren’t coming from the outside. The biggest dissension is among people who are supposed to share the same beliefs.
Today we talk about religious freedom. Christians, rightly so, feel attacked on all sides. We are asked to be tolerant of people of other faiths. Within our churches we are sometimes asked to be tolerant of people whose behaviors are abhorrent, against the Word. You’d think that would bond us together as a group but it doesn’t.You hear one denomination refer to another as those __________. “Thankfully I’m not a ___________. They do some crazy stuff.” Each denomination, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, does things just a bit differently than the others. We share the same basic beliefs. We approach them differently and suddenly there it is conflict among the believers.
As Christians today we face enough opposition from the outside. We are continually being asked to water down our beliefs and convictions in the name of tolerance. We are mocked and opposed as surely as our forefathers were. Yet, we’ve taken infighting to a whole new level.What does that say to the people on the outside looking in? It says that we’re great talkers but not such great followers. It may say to them that we are all talk and no substance.
Jesus commanded us to love one another. That means the Catholics need to love the Methodists. The Methodists need to love the Baptist and so on and so on. We all need to love each other. If the world, the naysayers, the finger pointers, could see us walking in love that would speak volumes. If they heard us saying, “Well we do it a little differently at our church but God bless you. We’ll keep you in our prayers and please keep us in yours.” If they could see us evangelizing together, serving together, co-operating, that would make our detractors sit up and take notice.Instead they hear us say, “Ugh, I would never go to your church. You people don’t do_____ the way you’re supposed to do it.” Hmm…. How inviting is that?
We have to learn to love God and our neighbors, even the ones who go to that church across the street. You know, that one where they do things differently.It seems to me that we are becoming our own worst enemy. We may have different worship styles, that’s fine. The music, the length of the service, the details aren’t important as long as what shows is that we love the same God, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s time to stop arguing and unite in love.