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Stumbling Around

Imagine a large paddock where there are sheep. You need a strategy to keep sheep in the paddock. There are at least two options:

1. Put a fence around the paddock.

2. Put a well in the middle of the paddock and clear any obstacles to that well.

(Frost and Hirsch write some great stuff on this question in relation to the church in “The Shaping of Things to Come.”)

John, one of Jesus' disciples, came to Jesus with the question of who belongs and who is in the paddock of Jesus.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (Mark 8:38)

John is taking a “fenced” approach to belonging to Jesus. Someone is “not in the group” and therefore shouldn’t be using Jesus’ name. The trick with the fence is that it may keep people in, but it also keeps people out.

John was starting to prioritise being “one of us” over actually belonging to Jesus. He wanted to be able to control the group, rather than be part of a group of people that submitted to Jesus’ control. Jesus saw a person do a kind and good thing and give Jesus the credit for it, by naming him. Isn’t that what we are all meant to be doing?

John has begun to think in terms of competition and enemies. Jesus is looking for allies.

Jesus knows that we need people – even just to get a drink of cold water sometimes. Jesus is encouraging the disciples to look for people who are not against them, because they are already on the team – they may not be wearing the uniform but they are kicking in the same direction.

Our aim is to make sure there's no big boulders in the paddock that would cause people to stumble as they make their way toward the well.

Read more:

Stumbing around Mark 9 summary
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