Jesus said: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
At the height of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland, a Catholic priest, a Protestant minister, and a Jewish rabbi were engaged in a heated theological discussion.
Suddenly an angel appeared in their midst and said to them, “God sends you His blessings. Make one wish for Peace and your wish will be fulfilled by the Almighty.”
The minister said, “Let every Catholic disappear from our lovely island. Then peace will reign supreme.”
The priest said, “Let there not be a single Protestant left on our sacred Irish soil. That will bring peace to this island.”
“And what about you, Rabbi?” said the angel. “Do you have no wish of your own?”
“No,” said the rabbi. “Just attend to the wishes of these two gentlemen and I shall be well pleased.”
It has been said: “Most people, alas, have enough religion to hate but not enough to love.”
We’re also familiar with the old adage: “Jealousy will get you nowhere.”
Jesus challenges us to look beyond easy, comfortable stereotypes of “in-groups” and “out-groups.” Jesus teaches us the significance of tolerance, openness and co-operation.
The words of Jesus are timeless and we all stand accused. How ready we are to build fences instead of bridges, how quick to point out in connection with someone who is undoubtedly doing Christ’s work and serving the community in his spirit: ‘But he or she is not one of us’—not a member of our denomination, worse still, not even a Christian.
Exclusiveness and sectarianism have bedevilled the Church throughout its history.
Today, when Christians of different denominations learn more about each other, they are discovering all of us probably have more similarities than we do differences ~ and oftentimes our differences complement rather than contradict each other.
Moreover, our differences provide us with opportunities to become more understanding, as well as to learn and grow in our faith.
Furthermore, several denominations are discovering that differences that divide them internally are often more pronounced than the differences which divide them externally from other denominations.
In the late 1800s, F.B. Meyer was minister of Christ’s Church in London at the same time that G. Campbell Morgan was minister of Westminster Chapel and Charles H. Spurgeon was minister of the Metropolitan Chapel.
Both Morgan and Spurgeon often had larger audiences than did Meyer.
Troubled by envy, Meyer confessed that not until he began praying for his colleagues did he have peace of heart. “When I prayed for their success,” said Meyer, “the result was that God filled their churches so full that the overflow filled mine, and it has been full since.”
Who knows, maybe if enough of us prayed in the same spirit of Pastor Meyer, God may very well choose to answer our prayers in a similar way!
Even if God did not answer us in this way, nevertheless, we would benefit greatly by coming to peace with the differences of others and accepting those differences ~ rather than being jealous of them.
Jesus admonishes us to keep our minds open and to overcome our prejudices.
It means humbly acknowledging that God’s truth is far greater than any single person, congregation, denomination, or religion.
This often helps us to become more deeply appreciative and thankful for the gift of faith that God has given us.
So, the next time we catch ourselves growing jealous of or prejudiced against someone different than ourself, remember the admonition of Jesus: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Or as one ancient papyrus reads: “The one who is far off today will be close tomorrow.”