Depending on one’s beliefs and personal stance, my last post could either be considered too harsh and critical, or too nice and easy. My purpose was not to be either, though. I was offering my honest reflection of the events of that evening.
As I’ve continued to process through this experience, one story of Jesus keeps coming back to mind. I have been pretty convicted about my pride and cynicism, the more I think about this story. It’s found in the book of Mark, chapter 9, verses 38-41.
38 “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.”39 “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, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 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.”
What the disciples basically had a problem with was this other guy who wasn’t “one of them.” Christians all too often fall into the “we-they” mentality, even when it comes to other Christians. This is where many Christians become too attached to their chosen denomination, their personal preference in brand of Christianity. It becomes a battle over which theology, which denominational focus, which famous name in the history of Christianity is best.
And Jesus, just as he always does, drops truth on them they weren’t even expecting. It’s so simple. If they’re not against us, then they’re for us. If they’re not against us, then don’t fight them. Don’t criticize them.
And as Jesus also always does, he says something that would probably surprise and offend many Christians today. Even if someone were to give me (Jesus’ disciple) a cup of cold water, because I follow Jesus, that person has a reward that cannot be taken from him. Yes, the guy who doesn’t consider himself a Christian, but who serves Christians and serves with Christians out of respect for what Christians stand for, that guy is reward-worthy in God’s eyes. But wouldn’t many Christians you know say it probably doesn’t count, because he’s not a Christian?
So, what does this have to do with the horseshoe ministry on the Rose Parade route on New Year’s Eve? I can imagine Jesus sitting with us in a counseling circle, where an elderly man from Kansas was doing his best to explain to a group of young African-American men the meaning of John 3:16. And I imagine him turning to me, reading my critical thoughts, and saying to me, “Johnny, don’t oppose him. You may not agree with his approach, but he is for us. He is for me. Learn from him–what he does and what he doesn’t do–and as you do maybe you will learn from me.”