By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  August 10, 2013

John saw the crisis very clearly and had to point it out to Jesus so it could be stopped before it got out of hand. There were some people not following Jesus and his disciples that were doing powerful ministry in his name and John wanted it to stop.

Let’s be honest. At some point in time we have all felt like John and we can all relate to his insistence that the pure expression of faith in Jesus Christ prevail while the unauthorized offshoots get shut down.  It is human nature to want to expose the bad in others. This is especially true when we are motivated by professing all that is right with our own beliefs. It is our desire to make sure that Christianity is only professed and followed by people who practice it correctly.

The story of this heated exchange between John and Jesus is told in both the 9th chapter of Mark and of the 9th chapter of Luke. When challenged with the threat of someone choosing to perform miracles in his name without following him as the disciples deemed appropriate, Jesus was quick to remind John that such narcissistic fears were unfounded.

“Whoever is not against us, is for us,” Jesus tells John and the disciples. The Biblical writers then go on to describe several challenges the disciples faced in staying focused on what really matters.  Luke describes John’s vengeful anger at villages that would not believe and Jesus’ reminder to all of us that being a Christian is not a part-time endeavor. In Mark’s gospel Jesus says that the fate of one would cause others to stumble and likens it to being worse than having a giant millstone tied around the neck and tossed into the sea.

Leading up to this point in the story of Jesus and his disciples experience a lot. Jesus had just begun telling them that the Messiah would have to die a disgraceful death and raise again on the third day. Peter, James, and John had just witnessed a transfigured Jesus in dazzling white, talking to Moses and Elijah and were still trying to understand what it meant. Caught up in the moment, Peter showed his own ignorance by trying to freeze that moment in time and only caught Jesus’s correction as they returned to ministry. Befuddled and probably quite insecure about things, the disciples began arguing among themselves over who was the greatest and Jesus had to put them in their places by reminding them of their priority to serve God and God alone. This is the moment when John decided to bring up the scandalous issue of the reneged miracle worker.

The story paints a vivid picture of the church. So often we are challenged by the wonderful, bewildering, and even different things that God may be doing. Yet, like Peter during the time of Christ’s transfiguration, we may foolishly try to cling to the moment and overlook the real ministry that is waiting for our attention. Or, like John, we may fail to come to terms with our own inadequacies or sins and try to divert the attention of everyone onto the things in others that we do not like or do not understand.

The fact remains that the church throughout the globe takes on many diverse, powerful, unique, and dynamic expressions of faith, worship, theology, and practice—not all of which are necessarily compatible. In fact, there are times when we completely disagree with one another on simple matters of Biblical interpretation or worship practice and that is inevitable. Yet, to get hung up on dictating who is truly of God and who is misguided or absolutely wrong, misses the point altogether. Loving God with all the heart, mind, and soul is far greater than adhering to any particular integration or application of Christian tradition and practice.