As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

The temptation to point to us

In Mark 9:38-50 the disciples stopped a man preaching in Jesus’ name, as they said, “because he was not following us.” This has continued for two millennia. The church grew large in the Greek and Latin-speaking worlds. After a thousand years of disagreement, they divided, each vilifying the other because they were “not following us.” In recent centuries Rome and Constantinople have only slightly modified their exclusive claims because of these Jesus’ words. Anciently, there were many churches outside the Roman Empire in places like Britain, Ethiopia, India, China and Armenia who had no part in the Great East-West Schism. In recent centuries there has been an explosion of churches following the teachings of Jesus. There is no need to offend them or point them to us, but point everyone to Jesus and be at peace with each other.

When heretics follow Christ

I was once part of a movement that followed Christ, but misunderstood his teachings. Patiently Jesus led many of us into the Gospel’s truth. In Mark 9:38-50 the disciples wanted to stop a man preaching in Jesus’ name because he did not follow them. What attitude ought we to have towards those who are not of our flock and who may even have doctrines that we believe are wrong? Christian movements often begin in enthusiastic heresy and explosive growth. If Christ is leading them they eventually align with historic church teachings. When we try to stop those who follow Christ because they are not following us, we are looking to ourselves to correct their error. We are actually impatient with Christ’s leadership. He will lead them into all truth, what we call orthodoxy, at his merciful and gracious pace.

Causes of stumbling

When Jesus warned against causing little ones to stumble (Mark 9:38-50) he spoke specifically about those “that believe in me.” In that context the stumbling would be to cause people not to believe in him. Jesus is always faithful to his promises, but some teach false promises that Jesus did not make, causing people to stumble when those false promises are not fulfilled. Many people enter and donate their so-called seed money because false gospels sound attractive. Jesus did not teach any such thing, but positive thinking gurus and motivational speakers have found great profits in using Jesus’ name. Some people stumble and leave Jesus altogether when those false promises fail. Thankfully, some few are digging deeper into their Bibles and realizing that Jesus made no such promises and are leaving for churches that actually teach what Jesus taught.

Those who sacrifice

Her baby was born with good hearing but without ears. She knew her son would struggle. As he grew into a handsome young man, the boy’s father asked about an ear transplant, but he needed a donor. Eventually one was found and the operation was remarkably successful. The young man married and had a successful career, but he wanted to know about the person who was an ear donor. An agreement had been made to keep the donor’s identity secret. Then the young man faced that dark day that we all face when a mother dies. As father and son approached the casket, the father reached forth his hands and raised his wife’s beautiful, thick hair to reveal to his son that she no longer had outer ears. Truly the first are those who sacrifice for others (Mark 9:30-37).

Source: and Love

Those who watch

Those who watch and protect are quiet heroes. Susan had gone blind in her thirties. She was angry and bitter and deeply depressed. When she was ready to return to her job, her husband Mark drove her to work faithfully. He knew she would eventually need to take the bus on her own. In anger, Susan refused, but Mark gently insisted and rode with her the first week. Eventually, she ventured out alone. After a week, the bus driver said he envied her. Why? She was blind and felt useless. The driver explained that each day she got off the bus, a handsome young man was watching from the side and when she got off safely he silently saluted and left her. It was her husband Mark. Truly the first are those watching and waiting to serve (Mark 9:30-37).

Who is the first

What makes us first, nationally or individually? In heaven the first are “last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:30-37). When a neighbor rescued the person next door at 2:00 AM from a burning house and gave temporary shelter he joined the ranks of the first. When red cross helpers came at 3:00 AM with aid, they joined the ranks of the first. Nurses speak often about the joys of their profession, because they know the secret. It is not about what we can do for ourselves. It is not about fame, fortune and power. It is about service to others. This is also service to God. As Jesus said, as much as we have done for one of the least of these his brothers and sisters, we have done it for him (Matthew 25:40).

Who is the greatest

Who is the greatest? Whether it be sports, national greatness, talent or celebrity, we have heard that question answered with numerous opinions. In sports the rivalry is most often just a conversation starter. In national bigotry it is just a variation on old the worn out theme of why our country is the “master race.” Sometimes the sentiment is disguised in terms of “manifest destiny” and other times it is expressed bluntly in exaggerated terms such as ours is the “greatest country in the world.” All this is the exact opposite of the true greatness that Jesus described in Mark 9:30-37. If anyone desires to be first, they must be last of all, and servant of all. That does not seem to fit personal fame, covetousness or national military might, but it does fit anyone who selflessly serves others.

Politically incorrect Jesus

What kind of Jesus do we worship? There is a Jesus of the Bible and any number of Jesuses of pop culture. Often the two are very different. Mark 7:24-37 introduces us to an aspect of Jesus that may not be popular. Like Daniel, Jesus was not always politically correct. In Daniel’s day, the politically correct thing to do was to at least pretend to worship the golden image created by the government establishment. His three friends refused and were arrested. Jesus insulted a gentile woman using politically incorrect language. Certainly in the Greek he actually used the term puppy rather than dog. Even though the expression is a metaphor, it still refers to her as a lesser racial priority than Israel. Jesus was not concerned with political correctness, but teaching. Sometimes being politically incorrect is the right thing.

A throwaway God

How does a throwaway society treat God? We package things in throwaway containers. Our cars are designed to be thrown away rather than continually repaired and renewed. We throw away spouses like old clothing. We toss aside loyalty to family members in our lust for status and money. Some people are more loyal to a sports team than to God. Do we worship a throwaway God? In Mark 7:24-37 Jesus spoke with a gentile woman who would not quit on him. He ignored her, but she persisted. He insulted her, but she persisted. How often has it seemed like Jesus has ignored our prayers? How often has it seemed like Jesus insults us? How often has it seemed like we are beaten down by evil and need God’s help? Do we persist or is our God a throwaway God?