Embracing Fellow Christians

‘Whoever is not against us is for us’ (Mark 9:40)

Christians have an unfortunate tendency to treat with contempt other Christians whose faith they deem to be wanting. Factious from the very beginning, Christians have, over the centuries, subjected each other to inquisitions, to heresy trials, and even to armed attack — all this in the name of a loving Lord.

While the worst of Christian-on-Christian violence hopefully is over, intra-faith suspicion and competition remain alive and well. Some Episcopalians look down their collective noses at Christians more conservative than they are, often branding such folks as ignorant. They are sometimes tempted to respond in kind to groups which see little that is Christian in our teaching. And the treatment of congregations and dioceses that have felt compelled to leave our fellowship can verge on the scandalous. We are smugly certain that the many who have left our ranks weren’t really “true” Anglicans to begin with. And we become adamant that they shouldn’t be allowed to worship in diocesan-owned buildings.

The ecumenical movement of the past few generations has made at least a start in addressing our Christian divisiveness. A number of denominations now include identical scripture readings in their Sunday worship, and our liturgies are becoming ever more similar. Tiny Lutheran and Episcopal congregations no longer need to compete for members and resources, and at the last General Convention, the Episcopal Church entered into formal intercommunion with Moravian Christians. But these things are merely a start. A whole lot more needs to happen.

In today’s gospel, disciples bring news to Jesus of an outsider engaging in God’s work. “Do not stop him,” Jesus directs, “for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward” (Mark 9:39-41). He just might be saying the same thing to us.

Look It Up

How did Paul respond to the development of factions in the Corinthian church?

Think About It

What religious prejudices do I harbor within myself?

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