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"If You're Not With Us You're Against Us"

Updated: Feb 13

Mark 9:38-40

By Drew Zuverink

"'Teacher,' said John, 'we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.' 'Do not stop him,' Jesus said, 'for no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.'"

Humor me if you will and ask yourself, what is the purpose of the church? Not necessarily your local church but the global church as a whole, what is its main objective?

I'm not sure what came to your mind but when I think of that question I think of a quote from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, "the church exists to draw people to Christ and to make them little Christs." I agree with ole Lew, the goal of all God's people is evangelism and discipleship. We want to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit of God might live inside of them, sanctifying them into the glorious image of the Son.

It's important to remember what our main purpose is for many reasons, one of them being different beliefs among Christians. When it comes to theology there are always going to be different beliefs about what the Bible says. If we aren't careful these differences will start to distract us.

Let's pause for a moment. Do you realize how big of a deal that is?

Our goal is way too important and beneficial to get distracted. Even worse than being distracted we might even start to fight with each other. Sadly this happens way too often and Christians start to take a mindset of "if they aren't exactly with us on every doctrinal issue then they're against us," which is very different than Jesus', "if they aren't against us they're for us."

So what do we do when Christians interpret Bible passages differently - because it's going to happen... a lot! What do we do when some of us are convinced that God created the world in exactly 6 days while others of us think otherwise? Or how do we interact when some of us think that the Bible teaches a rapture while others of us aren't convinced? Or what should happen if some of us believe the Bible instructs all husbands to have authority over their wives while others of us see something else in scripture? Or what about differences on the sabbath, baptism, end times, election, church leadership, homosexuality, and divorce? It's important to think about this because almost none of us see eye to eye on everything the Bible "teaches."

3 Things To Consider When We Interpret A Passage Differently

First, all of us should humble ourselves. The New Testament was written from roughly between 50AD and sometime in the early second century. This is a very very long time ago! Thankfully because of God's grace and modern excavation we are able to understand much of what the Biblical authors were teaching. However, the fact remains that anytime you try to understand a person's intent from 2,000 years ago you might struggle sometimes. This is especially true when we consider how different culture was back then. Seeking to understand scripture is like time traveling into a different world. This ought to fill us with excitement but also with humility. Understanding scripture isn't always an easy task and we might get it wrong sometimes.

Second, since it's at least possible that we are misinterpreting an author's intent, we ought to have grace for others who see things differently. There are a lot of really smart Christians out there who disagree with you. It's always possible that the people we disagree with are actually seeing things more clearly than we are. Be willing to engage them in conversation and give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't assume they've formed their opinions based on culture while you've based them on the Bible. They might surprise you.

Third, when the church experiences different opinions it's extremely important to distinguish between a national border and a state border. A national border is something that is so important there is simply no room for disagreement. Things that would fall into this category are the reality of God, the divinity of Jesus, whether or not a lifestyle of sexual immorality is wrong or not, and the gospel. Those are salvation issues. Those are the things that threaten the mission of the church. A person either agrees with them or they're outside the camp of what we consider to be genuine Christianity.

On the other hand, a state border is something that is important but there is room for disagreement. Hear me loud and clear. I am not saying these things aren't important, they are, but we shouldn't treat them like they're on par with national border issues. We can discuss these things but we should be careful not to fight about them. They don't threaten the mission of the church so they aren't against us which means they must still be for us.

Hopefully these three steps serve as a helpful framework as you navigate differences within the church. Remember, our main objective is evangelism and discipleship. Let's strive towards that goal together, discussing our differences along the way, but never becoming distracted from the main thing - because when Christians fight Christians nobody wins.

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