Neither High nor Low Self-Esteem (v. 35)

You can only see what your questions allow to be revealed.  If you ask bad questions, then you will never even consider good answers.  In our day and age there is a strong tendency to read this passage and debate self-esteem.  However, I believe this would miss the point entirely.  To borrow from the opening line of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about us.”

Jesus asks, “If anyone wants to be first,” implying this is not a bad desire.  Greatness is not a sinful pursuit.  It is the definition of greatness that makes it holy or evil; a blessing or a curse.  Jesus says the blessed definition of greatness is servanthood.  The less self-preoccupied we become, the more free we are to experience/express the love, joy, and peace that God has for us because our focus has returned to what it was always meant to be.

Reflection: When you hear the concept of self-forgetfulness as the door to true, lasting happiness, what fears or cautions come to mind?  How is this concept different from many notions of self-esteem (pride, vanity, competition) and forced humility (negative, self-critical, unable to receive complements)?

Whoever Is Not Against Us (v. 40)

After Jesus spoke of welcoming others in his name, the disciples asked about a “competing” teacher, “Do you want us to welcome him too (v. 38 paraphrased)?”  Jesus answer (again paraphrased), “There should be no competition between messengers but only between messages (see also Philippians 1:15-18).”

Reflection:  What are the key beliefs that comprise true Christianity?  In our day of denominations and non-denominations what would be the essential beliefs and practices that Jesus would consider “in my name (v. 41)”?  Is it your tendency to be too combative or uninformed on these types of questions?

Practice:  When you are studying Scripture and forming beliefs divide your beliefs not only by topic (salvation, Jesus, church, etc…) but also by importance.  I would advise the following four categories of importance:

  1. Highest: Those beliefs essential to being a Christian and inheriting eternal
  2. Second: Those beliefs which should be agreed upon in order to have harmonious fellowship in the same church.
  3. Third:  Those beliefs which one should seek to have personal convictions on, but should not divide  What are those matters which are a matter of heaven and hell if one is right or wrong?
  4. Fourth:  Those beliefs which are unclear and can only be considered using inference or implication.

A Radical Refocusing

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus approaches the discussion of the “radical amputation of sin (9:43-47) flowing from a discussion of unity amongst believers.  The transition thought is, “Who is our true enemy?”

A.  Those with whom we disagree (9:38)
B.  Those whose ministry rivals our own (9:33)
C.  Those who receive privileged status (9:2)
D.  The sin that interferes with God’s kingdom in us (9:47)

Jesus refocuses the disciples’ attention to answer D.  Jesus is harnessing the competitive energies the disciples were unleashing on one another and strangers to the “enemy within.”  Hence he concludes, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other (v. 50).”

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I approach most passionately or aggressively?
  • What does the intensity of this pursuit reveal about me?
  • What methods of preparation do I use in this pursuit?
  • How did those methods of preparation develop?
  • What skills have I learned and mastered in this pursuit?
  • How long did this process take?
  • What made the effort worth it to me?

Take those answers and now apply them to the areas of sin that you most commonly struggle with.  Allow God to redirect your natural passions and interests (not to imply they are wrong) to inform, illuminate, and motivate your battle with sin.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.