Friday, 26 February 2021
“Not one of us”
Mark 9:38 (NIV)
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
It was a very difficult dinner. As time wore on, I was getting stressed. Although I knew it will be a difficult dinner session, it was a conversation that was long overdue. There I was, seated in the restaurant, with two of my brothers in Christ from a sister church in another location. They were both top leaders of their respective congregations.
Although we were under the same local church leadership, the relationship between the two churches was nothing less than fractious. In the past, there had been several attempts by the two churches to break free and become independent. But, as the Lord would have it, previous attempts to separate had been futile. The “independence motion” to go separate ways had been defeated via a congregational vote in past church meetings.
The church was divided. The futile attempts to separate has led both the churches to question if the other side is indeed “one of us”. Keeping all this in mind, dinner that evening was surely not one that I was looking forward to.
“Brothers…,” I began to speak. “before we go on with dinner, can I just ask something? I know we have many issues between us. We have trust issues. We don’t get along. We dislike each other. Despite that, I humbly request that we try to talk to one another. Let us not listen to others. Instead, let us listen to one another. Let us seek to understand one another by what we say, not by what others are saying about us. If there was any doubt or rumour that needs to be cleared, may I suggest that we call each other to clarify it first before we speak to others? I pray that we can build trust and tear down the walls of distrust.”
Then, trust between the churches was probably at its all-time low. But both the leaders agreed to rebuild trust once again.
Remarkably, as the evening wore on, the difficult dinner start became warmer. By the time I had my last bowl of soup, all three of us agreed that we should talk more often and seek resolve issues via discussion rather than through argument. It was a major relief to me!
That day, I went home praising the Lord that He will complete the work that He had begun. After all, we are merely tools in His Hands.
In the ensuing days, the Lord impressed upon me to embrace my two brothers in love. Though initially, it began as an awkward relationship, the Lord led the way. I was amazed at how the fellowship blossomed. Yes, we did have some difficult conversations and had many stressful moments. But deep down, it was the Lord who was in charge.
The churches eventually separated peacefully through a vote within nine months. Little did I realise then that the Lord had prepared a nine months gestation period for our friendship to blossom.
Within a month of the separation between the churches, I resigned from my leadership position. My job was done. I needed to do the Lord’s work elsewhere.
As I recall those times, it was mostly a humbling time for me. I had to stand my ground several times. I had difficult arguments. I wasn’t willing to compromise on principles of truth. But the conversation we had at that dinner table on that first meeting, pushed me onwards. Though initially seen by many as “not one of us”, I slowly saw them as “one of us”.
I realised that my two fellow leaders also loved the Lord. I saw my wretched state and began to love them more. They have become “one of us”.
The Lord taught me many lessons, mostly in teaching me to see others better than me. I pray that we can commit differences of opinion to the Lord and let Lord Jesus handle it. Let us obey the Lord and belligerently love others, by putting others first.
Lord, please forgive me when I think I am better than others. Teach me to see the world from your viewpoint and to love others the way You love them. In Jesus’ name I ask, AMEN.