“Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded. (Mark 9:40-41, CEB)
Today I want to use my column to share with you from the blog of Moses Kumar, General Secretary and Treasurer of the United Methodist Church General Conference. He brings us a wise perspective worth reading.
The question of who is in and who is out of the beloved community is one of the threads running throughout the gospel of Mark. What we find when we study Jesus in Mark is that those who are on the margins of society – the sick, the dying, the poor, the “unclean”, Gentiles, children, women, Galilean fisherman, prostitutes and the demon-possessed, are all at the center of the community. Always have been and always will be.
His “healing” of them is not power asserted against their “marginal status” but is directed at the system of religious and bureaucratic oppression that make them marginal when in fact they are God’s children. Jesus cures and heals the people restoring them to the beloved community and in doing so breaks down the religious and political laws that would isolate them until they were made “pure” again by sacrifice, tithe or alms.
Where are we as a denomination? Where are we today in our actions toward our beloved community – the fellow people of God – regardless of belief, or stance or preferences? Those who stand outside the community do so of their own free choice. Instead of embracing love they embrace rules and laws and its monetary rewards that once served a purpose. But now these same rules and laws serve to ostracize people from one another.
Love is often conditional. Our love has restraints and prices. But in Mark, Jesus tears down all conditions to God’s Love. It is this very unconditionality that brings the people to Him. With Jesus, there is no “us” and “them”. There was no doctrine, no impressive sound system, no fireworks or boundary drawn between “me” and “you.” All Jesus offered was unconditional love.
And it was enough.
All Jesus continues to offer is unconditional love.
And it will be enough.
God of heaven and earth, open our hearts to you and to one another. We have lived too long under the divisiveness of the law. We have forgotten that it is your unconditional love that saves us not divides us. If we practice such love, people will come to hear about you in our churches, our pubs, our store fronts, at work and in our homes. Help us to remember too that whoever is for us, is not against us. As John Wesley writes, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” Help us to remember and live as if we know there is only one Source of Love, You. Amen.
Amen and amen!