Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Jesus is Not Against Denominations But For Oneness in Him (Mark 9:38-42)

Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone 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. ‘For 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. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:38-42, NIV).

I’m not sure which ‘John’ was talking to our Lord Jesus here. I assumed the young apostle John. I think John was really shook up. He saw someone else minister to people in Jesus’ name then he tried to shut him down because “he was not one of us” or “he wasn’t in our group” (The Message). ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’ I imagine John might have said today. ‘You’re not an ordained minister. Besides, you didn’t exorcise the demon our way; you don’t dress like we do and you didn’t sing gospel songs like we do.’ What I hear Jesus might saying in His reply is: ‘It’s okay John. Just because he’s not in your denomination doesn’t mean he isn’t one of My disciples. The important thing isn’t that he be in our group but that he minister in My name.’ Really, Jesus said: “Do not stop him.”

There are a lot of people around today who think as John thought. We know the Bible says that all believers are one in Christ, but we are pretty suspicious of anybody who doesn’t believe in Jesus exactly the way we were taught (Just like a young Richard). Here, Jesus pointed out two reasons why John and other disciples should not stop anyone to use His name: 1) No one doing miracles in His name will turn against Him (v.39); and 2) Anyone who isn’t against Him and His disciples are supporters not saboteurs (v.40).

Steven, Gibreson and Oliver are all Christians. Each confess Jesus to be the Lord and Saviour of his life and all three are filled with the Holy Spirit. Steven’s church (Catholic) has an altar and crucifix; the congregation sings anthems for worship; the bishops serve wine for communion and baptize by sprinkling. Gibreson’s church (Anglican) has a foyer and choir loft; the congregation sings hymns in worship; the ministers serve grape juice for communion and baptize by having water pour on head or fully immersed in water. Oliver’s church (BEM/SIB) meets in a simple-decorated room, the believers sing contemporary songs, and the elders serve apple cider for communion and baptise in a river by immersion. When these three guys attended Christian Fellowship as students, they could do one of two things: 1) Avoid each other suspiciously and seek fellowship with their own ‘kind’ only or; 2) Set their denominational distinctive aside and focus on their oneness in Christ. Jesus’ Word in Mark 9:38-42 leads me to believe that He preferred the latter.

It’s important for Jesus’ followers around the world to appreciate one another differences - their church traditions and methods – to link hands and hearts as one in Christ. As long as someone claims a relationship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and committed to the truth of God’s Word, there are common ground upon which to build a relationship. We must not boast to have exclusive right to certain teaching and ministry methods. We are not to let modes of worship or denominational distinctive separate us as family in Christ. Let us enjoy and appreciate the variety of people who follow Jesus – our brothers and sisters in faith. Let us not cause anyone “to stumble” but together we must encourage one another. Amen.

*Of course, Jesus doesn't encourage denomination either.
For denominational is human invention. 

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