I must admit I recently conducted a Facebook experiment. In doing so, I knew that I would bring out the worst in some and eventually see the best in others. I did so because I felt led to do so. Some will “get it” and appreciate my efforts to capitalize on a teachable moment. Others won’t understand the test.
Christians do very well at preaching and pulling out bible verses to back our well-rehearsed stands, but most of us are really lousy at listening and asking questions to understand. God continues to develop and teach me a) I don’t know everything about everything and, b) I can actually learn from other people. Some of those people are believers; some are not believers. Believers typically become stronger by our willingness to peek into the hearts of others. Non-believers are brought to Christ through the understanding witness of God’s people; not our demanding preaching. Certainly not by our condemnation of their beliefs or behavior.
I love the story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approaching Jesus asking for a place in His kingdom. I also love the fact that the Gospel of Matthew leads us to believe James and John’s mother was most likely behind their quest. Ah, mothers. We are so convinced we know what is right for our children.
James and John asked to sit beside Jesus as He ruled. The other disciples were angered, indignant and condemning of the brothers’ request. I love Christ’s response. He just kept coming back to sacrifice. He didn’t say, “How rude!” He reminds us of the commitment we make when we choose Him and warns us that it isn’t easy. In fact, total self-sacrifice is downright difficult and can lead to death. Incidentally, both James and John were martyred later on in life for the stand they took for Jesus. It had nothing to do with where they wound up sitting.
One commentator writes, “This is one of the few occasions where Jesus is recorded as having much to say about political power. For the most part, he sticks to religious issues. Christ spoke against being tempted by the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod. When it comes to specifics, he has always focused on the problems with the Pharisees. (The religiously arrogant who were definitely misled by their own traditions <my comment added>.)
Here, however, he is speaking more specifically of the leaven of Herod and the idea that in the traditional political world, everything is about power and authority. With Jesus, however, it’s all about service and ministering.”
Our unwillingness to allow people to discover and understand God in their own way only limits God’s power in all of our lives. What irritates me just might be the very way God brings someone into His family.
Reflect Him. Reveal Him. Be His ears as well as His mouth. Be ready to die for Him or, please, move out of His way.
I’m now prepared to give a grade to the unsuspecting students during the very uncomfortable teachable moment: C-