14 December 2010

Jesus Determines Who is Great

Mark 9:38-41

All people long to be great.  That is an in-built longing from our Father in heaven.  As previously discussed, because we have rejected our Father's definition of greatness, we have tried to determine our own definition of greatness.  Therefore, instead of seeking true greatness, we arbitrarily seek what we think is great.

One such definition is to be "in".  From the schoolyard, to our workplace, to our families, to our churches and in all kinds of communities, we long to be "in".  Even when we reject what the majority feels is in, we act as though we are in and it is the majority who is really out. 

What makes this notion of in and out even more complicated is what makes a person in or out is constantly changing.  When I was a boy, a man piercing his ear was a social statement for those who did not like those who are in.  Tattoos used to be a mark of someone of someone who declared themselves as in and others as out.  Piercing all kinds of body parts is even becoming more common. 

Throughout our history, a group of people share things in common and for one reason or another, someone will reject those common things with the desire to find significance.  Usually, it is not enough just to be different.   The group of people who endeavour to seperate themselves justify their seperation by declaring the other as out.  And those who have been rejected by the other will declare themselves as in by arguing how out the other is.

This has been a human issue since Cain and Abel.  The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offereing he did not look with favor.  This made Cain very angry. The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you , but you must master it."

Cain was not happy with his position in life.  Cain now was faced with a choice.  Either, he could find favour with the Lord by doing what the Lord was asking or he could try elevating himself in the eyes of the Lord by eliminating the one favoured by the Lord. 

In psychological terms, this is called leveling and we do it all the time.  We see those who are blessed, who seem to be happy and doing well and it seems to magnify our own struggles.  This tends to make us angry and/or depressed.  So, we are faced with a choice in making ourselves better.  We can either raise our standard of living to those we try to emulate or we can lower those who are being regarded the way we wish we were.  So, we try to destroy through gossip, slander, unfriendliness, being argumentative, arrogance, ridicule, theft, rape, assault, murder, etc...

What a wonderful time it was to be one of the chosen disciples of Jesus.  The more they came to know who Jesus is, the more pride swelled within them.  The greatest man ever to walk the face of the earth was living with them.  Greater still, he chose them.  He gave them the best teachings.  He constantly worked with them.  They were doing things they could not imagine doing just a short time ago.

They knew what was happening was highly significant.  But this was not enough for them.  We know this because they started arguing with each other about who was the greatest.  Then, John tells Jesus they found a person doing good (casting out demons) in Jesus' name.  But, John and the others tried to stop him...from doing good, in Jesus' name.

Why?  Because "he was not following us". 

Sigh...The church of Christ follows the mistake of John all the time.  We have Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Uniting, Salvation Army, Non-Instrumental, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Calvinist, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, Methodist, Nazarene, etc...  Being in a denominational church is not wrong as long as the congregation is doing what is right.  As long as that group is doing good in Jesus' name.  But being in a denominational church that separates and/or tries to stop others from doing good in Jesus' name is sinning (rejecting our Father in heaven).

Christians are to follow Christ in all things.  In all things, Christians are to follow Christ.  Wisdom comes from submitting our will to our the King's will.  Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

We do not determine what makes others great.  We do not determine who is great.  We do not determine who is in or who is out.  We are not the judge.  It is foolish for us to follow our own standard of greatness anyway since it changes all the time.  That is building our life on sand and that house will not last. 

Jesus is the judge.  Jesus determines who is great.  Jesus doesn't care who is following him as long as they are following him.  As long as they are doing good in Jesus' name.  That is the standard.  These are the people we should encourage, help, befriend:  the ones who are doing good in Jesus' name.

Father, I'm so sorry when I fall into cliquish ways.  I do not know men's hearts.  I don't know jack about what is really going on.  You do.  Help me to trust you.  Help me to see people the way you see people.  Give me wisdom in seeing how I can do good in Your Son's name and how I can help anyone who is doing good in Your Son's name.  Thank you for your grace and allowing me to grow in your grace every day.


  1. hehe, funny you should say '.The church of Christ follows the mistake of John all the time. ' because as you well know, that's another denomination!

    Jokes aside, I thought this was a helpful reflection on the 'in' and 'out' cultural phenomena. It's interesting to contrast the stability of what defines being 'in' in society to Jesus's definition. 'Doing good in Jesus' name' = followers of Jesus of any skin colour, any sub-culture, any social status. By contrast, being 'in' in society, as you alluded to, is a slippery beast. You can wear a 'cool' tie one year, and the next year, it's soooo 2010.

  2. Yes, I thought about that as I wrote it. You will note the small 'c' which is ironic since a big 'C' would lead many to think I was talking about the denomination. This is the same way many of us use the catholic church to talk about the universal church instead of the Catholic Church which is led by the Pope. But, when I said the 'universal church' I meant Christ's church throughout the world regardless of denomination rather than 'The Universal Church' that believes you don't even have to believe in Jesus to be in with whatever god is out there...

    OK, I'm going to stop now before my head explodes. I need a cold compress.