The latter half of the reading in Mark today provides us with one of the more controversial topics in the Bible: the unforgivable sin. Is there really a sin that cannot be forgiven? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not suicide.
I felt that John Piper provided an excellent treatment of this topic; if you’re wondering what that’s all about, I encourage you to read his explanation on his site, “Desiring God.” I will not be addressing this in the blog.
While I don’t wholly agree with the Calvinist stance, I believe his assessment is sound because he addresses the text as shown rather than importing his own perspective or opinion.
I like getting rid of elephants in the room. The clean-up is way too messy.
Instead, I’ d like to address something today that has always unnerved me, and has been the cause of church becoming less effective than it should be.
Now, if you attend church, it’s likely you go to one type of church or the other: one is a Catholic church, where many adherents will be quick to claim that they are the first church; the other is a Protestant church, where many adherents will be quick to claim that they are the correct church.
Both are wrong.
Jesus has already drawn much controversy in the regions surrounding Jerusalem for making claims to have power to remove sins, hanging out with “publicans and sinners,” and, of course, healing multitudes of people, even on the Sabbath. Jesus is turning into a bit of a rock star, drawing countless people to him to experience His power and witness miracles firsthand.
The religious leaders of the time were all pretty fired up about this attention He was getting, particularly for two reasons:
1) They were starting to lose their own power and authority.
2) Jesus constantly referred to Himself as God, contrary to what they believed He was.
But even these guys were divided into numerous sects, namely the Pharisees, Saducess, zealots, and Essenes. But without question, they could agree on one thing: they needed to get rid of Jesus.
Jesus certainly came to divide as well, but not in the way we would expect. While the Jewish leaders of the time were interested in being more right than another, particularly when it came to the Gentiles, Jesus is not concerned with this notion — there are simply those who identify Him as the Son of God, and those who do not.
But in the midst of being labeled “the prince of devils” for having the ability to cast out demons, He aptly remarks that Satan wouldn’t go after himself, and that Satan’s demise is imminent.
The crux of his argument, however, rests in verse 24:
And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
Americans love to quote this verse to describe our country, primarily referring to Abe Lincoln’s reference to it when addressing the Civil War. It’s true; a country is less effective when it’s divided.
But what about church? I’m fairly certain Jesus was not solely referring to the U.S. while facing off with the scribes. If you believe this, you’re probably the same type of people that think Tim Tebow is a great quarterback.
If you Google churches in your area, you’re likely to find a list of various names of churches, many of which you would have no idea how they came about.. Many of these denominations are the result of quibbles between historical church leaders, not unlike what you’ve possibly experienced in your own church today, over particular interpretations of verses, leadership styles, order of weekly services, and doctrinal nuances that are somewhat irrelevant to the kingdom of God at large.
But hold up now. Maybe you agree with all this, that it’s all frivolous, and you go to a non-denominational church. Good for you. But does this church take a stand against other denominations, or even other types of churches? Do many of your members claim that their church is “bomb dot com”, and use persuasive language to sway you to come and check it out? Do you sell your church with rationale resembling these key points?:
“My pastor is really anointed!”
“Our youth group is tons of fun!”
“We have a huge building and an awesome worship band!”
My friend, the grass isn’t greener, even on your side; you’re going to run into other humans wherever you decide to attend, and they’re going to disappoint you because they’re humans. Even in your state of euphoria, something is going to happen, and your high spot will someday topple.
Just because your church doesn’t say Lutheran or Baptist or Methodist on your church’s sign on the lawn does not make you superior in any way to the congregants in that building. Jesus saw those people the same way He sees you, as once lost sinners, and He subsequently poured out His whole self with a final act of love in order to see them saved. If we all keep our eyes on this understanding, we’ll be a lot better off.
Does your attitude look to unify the body of Christ as a whole? What you do as an individual matters, and your church is allowed to be “different”, but the entrepreneurial and competitive attitude of this country’s citizens often stifles the progress of making the gospel known, both in word and deed, to the growing mass of people that care less and less about the Bible and religion altogether. To continue dividing, even by trumpeting your pet doctrine or worship style, is only making us look further foolish and perpetuating our ineffectiveness.
The kingdom cannot stand if it is divided. I’m glad Jesus Christ will eventually reunite us all, but isn’t it time we start emulating that right now?