Mark 14:48 “Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?”
For the past nine months, I’ve been reading some sad stories about churches and pastors who have been treated badly by their religious authorities. Some ministers have been quickly dismissed and some congregations have been locked out of their buildings. Instead of showing understanding and grace, authority figures are displaying indignation and contempt. Rather than seeking reconciliation by arbitration, both sides get locked into a war of words that destroys Christ’s witness in the local community. If there are tears of sadness in heaven over these acts of unkindness, then there must also be tears of laughter in hell. Instead of showing Christ’s compassion in these trying times, we are all guilty of brandishing the devil’s swords and clubs.
Some days I wonder where it will all end up. Will we fatally fracture the Western Church with our social issues and creeping universalism that many people will just give up and forsake their faith? I’m seeing diminishing congregations across the land and churches struggling to survive. If accepting the present trends in culture is so good for the Church, then why are our numbers still going down at an alarming rate?
And then I read today’s Gospel passage (Mark 14:43-52) and I realize that it’s all part of the Great Plan. There is no revival without betrayal; there is no salvation without the crucifixion; there is no resurrection without persecution.
Questions for personal reflection
How is my faith impacted by society? When and where do I betray Christ?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, having faith in You is not easy. Across the generations and throughout the nations, Christians have struggled with cultural demands, as opposed to eternal commands. Help us to be honest with Your Word and keep us from allowing the devil to diminish the gracious witness of Your Church among ourselves, as well as throughout the world. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest ‘art nouveau’ roses drawings. It’s called ‘Lifetime Joy’ and is drawn in the style of Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose work inspired Frank Lloyd Wright. If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8148/7299741342_ea6f7664c3_b.jpg
John also has note cards and gifts available with these new designs which you can view at the following online store: http://www.cafepress.com/stushienotes