A friend recently counselled me in regards to my post on Bethel and their fight against homosexuality that “the disciples wanted to call down fire on some folks and Jesus counselled a different approach.” This is a somewhat common response to criticism within the church. There is this desire that some of us have to all stay on the same page and keep up the guise of unity. I don’t think that is what he was suggesting at all with me, but it did get me thinking a lot about where this comes from. The idea comes from this story in Luke 9.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.”
What is nice about this story is Jesus’ defense on the goodness that exists outside of the confines of the insiders of Jesus’ little group. It turns out that being a disciple isn’t a prerequisite for doing good in the world. The kingdom of God exists and moves without the King being acknowledged.
It does seem that given the context of Jesus words in the midst of the disciples bickering about who was the greatest, that his motive was more to shut up the disciples rather defend the heretic. The key in this story is that the guy driving out the demons was doing a good thing and the disciples should rejoice in all the good being done in the world and stop worrying about their own status. Where this story shouldn’t be used, is to prevent confrontation against someone who is not doing good. Yes, it is very subjective to determine who is “against you” but I think that Jesus left that up to our interpretation here. In these two cases the disciples thought that someone who was casting out demons and someone who wouldn’t welcome Jesus deserved some righteous punishment. These weren’t worth Jesus’ time.
However, there is things that were worth Jesus’ time. Like flipping tables in the temple for predatory lending and unjust economic practice and engaging in endless debates with the Pharisees proclaiming that justice will come their way for their oppressive spirituality and religion. It is clear we should confront injustice and resist evil and condemn oppression.
So with that said. I really hope the arguments and stand-offs I engage in are worth it. I think that standing up to a local church that is blatantly anti-Christian in their stance and expression against the LGBTQ community is a worthwhile engagement. I think that standing with my First Nation’s neighbours and acknowledging the unjust systems we perpetuate against them is worth it. I think confronting celebrity culture in the church is worth it. Why fight against those that are doing good? Let them carry on. Why fight against those that just don’t like us? Let it be. Fight against those that are actively destroying the world. Fight against those who are spreading hate and are selfishly harming anyone who stands in their way. Fight against oppression. That is worth it.