Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not one of us...

Mark 9:38-41 begins with this report from John: “‘Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’

“‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.’”

Let me take you back a few years. Toward the end of my time at the Friends Church in Arba, Indiana, a nearby church began to grow like crazy. People were coming to know Christ at Fountain City Wesleyan. Lives were being changed. This church was the talk of the town.

It was also the talk of the Christian community. A few grumblers complained that those Wesleyans were stealing sheep. “They’re just growing because Christians are changing churches,” was the common refrain. Church folks, those not affiliated with this thriving congregation, were, like John, perturbed that someone else was doing God’s work.

I tried to point out to those who spoke negatively to me that this was crazy talk. “We’re on the same team,” I would insist. “They aren’t the enemy! We should be celebrating their success!” My words often fell on deaf ears.

I hope your ears are not deaf today. I hope you will hear what Jesus says to his followers. Listen to him. “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Any and every church that preaches the good news is a friend, not a foe. If Jesus is exalted and faith in him promoted by any local pastor, you and I should applaud. If any group of believers is doing something new that is bearing fruit, how can we not be thrilled?

Paul had to deal with envy and rivalry in the church. His take on this matter is interesting.

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
(Philippians 1:12-18, NIV)

Now, understand. Paul is not saying it’s okay for jealousy and competition to remain in the church. It needs to be dealt with, eliminated. It is not right. Even so, if the gospel is spread because of it, Paul is praising God. Praising God for the spread of the good news, not the jealousy. He wishes everyone was preaching without pride or selfishness. Since they aren’t, he’s looking at the bright side. At least people are hearing about Jesus.

Do you not like something another church or pastor in your town has done? Are you praying for that church?

Jesus is the head of his church. If something different needs to happen at any church, he will direct that church to do his will. He will correct what needs to be corrected. That’s true every church. It’s true of yours.

So when we see something that isn’t quite right, we pray. Prayer will accomplish abundantly more than gossip or strife or complaining. And if they were wrong in any of their actions, so what? (Isn’t that what Paul said? He said it plain as day. “…what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

God will make things right in every body of believers that calls on his name. It may take time, but he will make things right. So if you don’t like the actions of any church – your own included – pray! Ask God to correct what needs to be corrected then trust him to do what’s right in his time. Even if things don’t change quickly, praying about the situation will change your attitude. Your heart will no longer be filled with resentment, suspicion or distrust. It will instead be filled with love and concern for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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