(A fresh look at what Jesus may have meant in Mark 9:40.)
This phrase has been reverberating in my head ever since our pastor preached on it recently.
As a young evangelical Christian, I used to think of the people who were against me as the people whose ideologies were primarily different from mine: atheists, Satanists, abortion doctors, porn-industry leaders, and terrorists immediately come to mind.
But as I’ve read this again in context, and as I’ve studied more carefully the mission of Jesus to bring “Peace on earth; goodwill toward men,” I am wont to think that Jesus had a much different kind of being against in mind…
Have you ever been in a relationship or an encounter in which you felt that the person was simply against you? What did it feel like?
To me, it seems much simpler than ideological disagreement. I feel like someone is against me when they are against goodwill in my life. Like when:
- It seems that whatever I give is never enough.
- They have an ulterior motive or agenda for something they want from me, even something well-intentioned.
- They assume the worst about me and my motives.
- Their goal is to be right and for their idea to triumph, rather than to come to a place of understanding and common ground with me and others.
- They are more concerned with looking good and how they’re being perceived than with me and how I’m doing.
In contrast, I desperately hope you’ve been in at least one relationship in which you felt that the person was simply, sublimely for you!
What does it feel like when someone is for you?
I feel like someone is for me when:
- They care about what I have to say, listening and asking questions.
- They show empathy (not judgment or quick-fixes) toward my struggles.
- They appreciate me and all I do, before and behind the scenes.
- They ask, “How can I support you? How can I help you become more of all God made you to be?”
What if, in Jesus’ way of bringing ‘goodwill toward men,’ we are meant, simply to be for one another in the best and deepest kinds of ways? And what might happen in this world if we went about each day with the simple, primary mission of being for one another?
What if we:
- Listened patiently when we asked others, “How are you?” or when, in meetings or gatherings, we are presented with the concerns of others
- Practiced loving, honest communication and conflict resolution, beginning with our intimates?
- Cared far less about how we look and how we are perceived, caring far more about the felt and true needs of others?
How might our relationships improve? How might the culture of goodwill take shape among our families and communities places of employment and neighborhoods and schools and places of worship?