Holy Hierarchies!

Jesus put a child among His disciples to help answer their concerns about leadership. He hears them arguing about who will be in charge and wants them to hear His heart on the subject. It is the way of the world to want to climb up the hierarchy, but Jesus didn’t operate that way. He said the least would be the greatest and the first would be last. That didn’t make any sense to the men who followed Him, and it still doesn’t makes sense to some.

Hierarchies exist in churches and denominations, just as they do in the world of business. Even little family churches have a chain of command. The disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying, but they were afraid to ask any more questions. I imagine they were a bit embarrassed by being caught in a conversation about power.

Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.  Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. (Mark 9:30-41 NLT)

John changes the topic in hopes of getting approval from Jesus. He tells Him they stopped someone who was casting out demons in His name. Jesus made it clear to the disciples that whoever is not against us is for us. I so wish the Christian community could get that through their thick heads. His disciples are still arguing over who’s right, who’s wrong, who knows best, and who’s in charge. Some things do not change, and I know that breaks God’s heart.

We are all part of the same body, and I pray that one day we will behave in a manner that doesn’t go against the intentions of Christ to unify and bring peace to His body. Christ came so we could be one as He and His Father are One. That happens when we quit worrying about getting up the ladder, being the leader, and taking charge.

climbing the ladder

 

Possessing Perfection

Paul pleads with the Philippians to stay focused and not forget the progress they have made. He shares his desire to press on in hopes they will do the same. He knows he won’t reach perfection until he is with Christ, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching for it. Paul wants “to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” So do I, but before I can experience a resurrection, I have to die to self.

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. (Philippians 3:10-16 NLT)

Paul sees the progress made by the Philippians slipping away in the midst of arguments. Possessing perfection is not the goal; pressing in the direction of Christ is. Following Jesus is about transformation, and that means becoming spiritually mature. Growing up. Holiness is the goal, and that does not mean perfection. The word  translated as ‘holy’ means maturity, ripeness, or readiness in Greek. Christ wants us to be ripe, not perfect.

Those who follow Christ argue over the inane. I can give myself a different name, adhere to a different doctrine, try a new denomination,  and take pride in my piety or my mess. It doesn’t matter which end of the spectrum I come from, I still must press toward Christ’s love. Perfection is in His precious love. It possesses my heart in a powerful way that makes me want to love as He loves.

Christ is perfect so I don’t have to be. God is a loving Father who loves His children and wants them to grow in His Son’s precious love. That’s as perfect as it gets in this world.

Photo Credit: Anne Bradshaw
Photo Credit: Anne Bradshaw

Tummy or Heart ??

Lilly and Mylah have an ongoing debate that reflects religious debates found in the world. Lilly pointed to her chest one day and said that God was in her heart. Mylah pointed at her round little belly and said God was in her tummy. I don’t believe she meant to start a debate, but she did. Lilly jumped in to say that God was not in her tummy; He was in her heart!!

Mylah defended her beliefs, as only a two-year-old can, and insisted God was in her tummy, not her heart!  I told the girls they were both right. God was in our hearts, tummies, feet, arms, heads, and anywhere else He wanted to be. They settled down to dinner, but the argument resurfaced several times during the next few days.

I kept Mylah on Thursday and Friday, and she revisited the subject as we settled into bed on Thursday evening. She likes to play with my hair while she’s drifting off to sleep, and she was twisting and turning it with vigor after we read her new library book. I detached myself from her grip, turned off the light, and snuggled next to her. She said quietly, “God IS in my tummy.” I told her I knew He was, and she said she wanted Him to stay there. She was looking for an ally in the debate with her older sister. I told her again that God could be anywhere He wanted to be, and she drifted off to sleep.

Christians in this world are just like Lilly and Mylah when it comes to details, doctrines, and denominations. I’m right; you’re wrong. I know God better than you do. God’s on my side! God is this! God is that! The girls little arguent was cute, but similar exchanges between adults are not so endearing. They irritate and leave me wondering, “What ever happened to love one another?” If we would put as much effort into loving God and loving our neighbors as we do into arguing about Him, the world would see a new dynamic that would make them to want a loving relationship with God instead of a place to hide from His fighting children.

The trouble with doctrines and denominations is that they replace relationship. I am amazed at the venom and violence that grow from the lines we draw around God. I suppose it’s human nature to want to corner the market on God, but Christ came to change our nature. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we allowed God to be who and where He wants rather than who and where we want Him? Conflict over creeds will exist as long as there are two churches standing in this world.  Heaven is a place of unity and peace, and I do wish the same were true of the body of Christ.

God is love, and walking in His kingdom is about loving one another in a way that makes the world see the disciples Jesus describes in John 13:35.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (The Message)

Love changes everything if given the chance 🙂