Jesus Forbids Sectarianism
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
And yet, do we not have sectarianism among us?
We are unified in Christ, and through our faith in the cross and resurrection, so whether we see the differences in what we believe to be true about that as vast or negligible, it is because of our hard hearts and tender spirits, for as the writer of Hebrews tells us, He did it once, for all.
We are indeed fortunate to have a Savior who understands that we are but human, and incapable, without Him, of setting aside these things. We fight with over the irrelevant with other believers, pitting leaders’ ambitions against each other.
There are even choir competitions: singing the praises of G-d has for prize money. There is a time for splendor, and playing skillfully, and singing well, but what should be a celebration to the glory of G-d has become a contest for who has the better robes, choir director, and worship band.
The late Pastor Adrian Rogers once said that if Satan can’t get us to do evil in the flesh, he can make us do good in it: our works, therefore, are for self-aggrandizement, even if only we know about it.
It is not doing for the least out of love for our brother, but doing for the least so that our ‘bases are covered.’ I feel that way about the special reminders to give to the poor and feed the homeless during the holidays, as if they were a box of neglected decorations that we get to put back after New Year’s Day. They are like the people who attend church on Christmas and Easter, ‘just in case.’
As Chris Rock said: “I’m sure (the homeless) are just as hungry on President’s Day.”
In America, our churches are mostly segregated, and there’s strife even about man-made doctrine and church policies, music styles, preaching styles, and all the other things that become relevant when the focus is taken off Christ.
We all would do well, especially among the leadership, to bring to mind the words of the Apostle Paul: (1 Corinthians 2: 1-5)
2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
And if we have studied at all, we know there was no more worldly place than Corinth.
This is not to say that pastors, leaders, and believers should not become involved in each other’s lives, form friendships, and such; even Jesus had an inner circle. But as we minister we are to continually remind ourselves and each other of this: the focus is Christ, the mission is the Gospel, and all that we do is to be done in love, and to the glory of G-d.
Jesus Heals Great Multitudes
29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus did the healing, but the glory went to G-d.
Yet our Lord tells us that no one who works a miracle in His name can speak ill of Him, and it need not even be a miracle, but a cup of water.
All that we do in love need not be grand, or spectacular, or on display.
Let your act of kindness, no matter how small, be to His glory, and if your neighbor does a different one, our Lord commands that you not rebuke them because they don’t believe the same as you.
Therefore I pray:
We give thanks today that the Father is long-suffering, and merciful.
We thank You for being our Shepherd, for the flock is amazingly vast, and incredibly impulsive.
Like the disciples, we don’t always understand, and we don’t always believe; there were those who doubted they saw You after the resurrection.
But our hearts are for the kingdom, and You tell us You are here to help us, and have sent the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth in all You told your disciples, and G-d has preserved His word for those He called to You through that power.
We pray today for the lost in the churches who’ve placed the doctrine of men over the Word of the Lord, and in their error and pride, give status and prestige to pastors and leaders and entertainers; we ask that the Spirit convict us if we are of such, for the Father doesn’t share His glory, and is the only one worthy of our praise. As You tell us of those who do their deeds for the praises of men, they have their reward.
Let us abide in You, that we may be reminded to go about doing good, and preaching the Gospel, and ministering to the least with as little as a cup of water. Let us study to show ourselves approved, and know when we are being led astray.
Let our faith be child-like, our zeal like Paul’s, and our focus on the kingdom and the Father like Yours, unwavering in the face of all the worldly opposition, and even the temptations of Satan.
Help us to keep in mind, above all, that You’ve said this about sectarianism:
“Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
May it be to us as You have said.