Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Our Common Ingredient"

Mark 9.38-40, 50 NKJV

“Now John answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him,… for he who is not against us is on our side.’ ”

“Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.

St. Peter was showing a new arrival around heaven. As they approached a certain cloud, the patriarch insisted his guest remain very quiet. “The Baptists live over there and they think they’re the only ones here.”

Hyper-conservative Baptists are not the only ones who think they’re the only ones. Some Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Presbyterians, and so-called Independents think they are only ones doctrinally right enough to make it through the gates of heaven. If certain Christian sects had their way, the gate would be too narrow for even Jesus to get in. Yes, “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7.14), but not that narrow.

Paul broadened “the way... that leads to life” in his letter to the Romans:

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ”
Romans 10.12-13 NASU

The man “casting out demons” in Jesus’ name was only unacceptable to the disciples. “He did not follow us”, they complained. Jesus was concerned with the content of the man’s ministry, not its form. Demons were cast out and that was good enough for Jesus. “For he who is not against us is on our side.”

Open a menu at your favorite restaurant. There is only one common element. Salt. You will find a variety of tasty options but not one without salt. Take salt from your diet and meals lose their appeal. Without salt every menu item becomes drably similar. No salt, no flavor. You might as well skip the restaurant experience entirely and take your food intravenously. Remove salt and the joy of eating is gone.

I assume Jesus takes great joy in the diversity of His children. Christians come in a wide assortment of flavors. Salt is what distinguishes believers and sets them apart, giving them impact and making them taste good. All those “who call on the name of the Lord” are on heaven’s menu. There is a countless variety of types of Christians. Each believer is uniuqe. That may not be OK with some of His followers, but it’s apparently OK with Jesus.

Jesus demands “salt” and “peace”. He has no plan to meld all believers into one indistinct, collective, anonymous mass. The restaurant that put all its selections in a blender and served only nutritious, unsalted protein slurpies would quickly go out of business. Jesus enjoys the variety. He created it. Jesus understands that some members of His body don’t mix well, but each menu option has salt, and that is enough.

Retain uniqueness and learn to get along. Salt and peace. If that’s good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for you.

“Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

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