For the past month, 2 Sunday sermons gave me much to chew on Salt and Strife amongst Jesus’ disciples in Mark 9. The below is a summary of my personal translation from the mandarin sermon. Italicised words are my personal interpretation.
- Strife amongst the disciples.
Mark 9: 33-34 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Reverend Tang pointed out that this strife occurred after Christ was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James and John. (Mk 9:1-15) The disciples ‘encounter’ with Christ probably stirred up a ‘self-righteous/centred’ vain conceit within them, so much so that each person thinks he is ‘closer’ to Jesus and therefore deserves a spot as his right hand man. The wrong focus, misplacing Self over Christ, caused them to disregard the worth of other individuals. This results in strife and discord, disuniting the family of believers.
When one concerns himself with his own interest and selfish ambition, it results in strife.
When there is
- Lack of Faith
- Lack of Knowledge
- Lack of Humility
- Lack of Love
the church cannot be salt and light to the world.
It is futile to blame the church for the above. I must be the agent of change. Conversion doesn’t automatically mean the person is a disciple of God. Conversion must be ‘trained’ to become a disciple of God. This notion caught my attention as it is true that after one has converted and accepted Christ into one’s life, the baby Christian will not grow into a mature disciple by default if one is not fed spiritual food and trained to apply God’s words into their lives. I am reminded of Walter A. Henrichson’s ‘Disciples are made not born’ where Jesus himself trained his disciples in all occasions and how we too are called to make disciples who would be faithful to do the same. Reverend’s assertion- Only when each of us becomes a disciple of Christ can a church be formed. I need to be the agent of change, a disciple of God first.
How then do we resolve such strife amongst ourselves?
Mark 9: 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Put Christ first instead of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Phil 2:3-5 (my own cross reference)
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
He quoted Maslow himself, concluded near the end of his life that if there were only the 5 hierarchy that was mentioned and pursued by men, society will become a selfish entity and perish. Contrary to these laws where the ultimate goal of life is Self Actualisation, Christianity seeks to ‘actualise’ God in our lives.
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Because God sees us as valuable, created in His image, we needn’t pursue a ‘better’ me. Instead, we are to live out this identity – A child of God. We act out our affirmed position in Christ, not seek to become one.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
We just need to Obey Christ.
2) Salt to the World and in the Church.
Before this sermon by our Bishop, I had limited knowledge of what Salt means.
Mark 9: 35-37
- Regard others as worthy
- Have an attitude of servant hood
- Regard and value the life of the individual, not one’s status in life.
Mark 9: 42
- Don’t stumble others
- We need to watch our behaviour and speech
- We must deal with our sins ruthlessly
- Stop sinning and repent
- Do not allow yourself to indulge in sin just because of God’s grace
Don’t lose your essence in Christ. (saltiness)
Salt as 1. preservative, 2. healing agent and 3. seasoning
We need to be the seasoning that promotes the spirit of unity amongst ourselves, and from what I gather, an agent of Christ’s love to the world.
I recalled how a pastor was delivering a sermon and sharing how as a pastor, he had extraordinary exchanges with God which ironically also caused him to become proud of those encounters thus stumbling and causing strife amongst others in the process. Reverend Tang’s sermon was a good reminder on no matter how close our walk with God, whatever encounters we experienced, when we allow self- vain conceit to enter into the picture- the ‘encounters or miracles’ could become a stumbling block. What started out as a great relationship between the disciples and Jesus turned into a competition amongst each other desiring to gain a more powerful status as the right hand man of Christ.
Such is the complexity of our humanity. When I have an intimate relationship with Christ, I can enjoy and emulate what He wants me to be. At the same time, I also need to remain humble and continue to regard others better than myself- regarding them as precious and worthy souls. Having an attitude of a servant, and being secure in my identity as Christ’s beloved child, I can cease striving to prove my worth in what I do. In fact, I should be confident and steady in living out being a child of God. When we do that, we can be the salt that has healing agent bringing unity in the church and the effective seasoning to a world that needs Jesus.
How can we be free from sin?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus.
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