Disciples’ Interpersonal Relationships

Author: Alan Hau

Speaker: Dr. Jeff

Passages: Mark 9:38-50, Numbers 11:26-29, James 5:13-20

Jesus was never looking to have the same church to house everyone. He sees that we are all unique in our own ways. Today there is diversity in both styles of worship and interpretation of Christianity. No single church denomination is better than another.  Great deeds and God’s work can come from anyone, even for those who don’t follow a specific tradition.

Whoever is not against us is for us: Christianity is not an exclusive franchise

John, one of Jesus’ disciples, tried to stop someone else from using Jesus’ name to perform an exorcism (Mark 9:38). The disciples held a different expectation of Jesus when he said he was king. They treat Jesus as they would a warrior king of their times. A king that is focused on earthly powers and material wealth. They curry his favor and strive to gather the most members and build the most powerful church so they can dominate their enemies. Anyone who doesn’t prescribe to their teachings is an enemy. Is that really what Jesus is about. Or is that our human instincts driving our desire to accumulate power?

1. Have an open heart of acceptance

Jesus wasn’t interested in the organizational aspect of the Church. Any group or sect capable of preaching the same love is his ally. There were examples already with non-conforming worship that is equally worthy even before his time when Moses led the Jews’ escape from Egypt. Times were harsh and the Moses asked God to let his Spirit flow through the seventy elders around a specific tent and make a prophesy. Two of them didn’t come out from their camp but still prophesied. Joshua, Moses’ assistant, noted their dissenting behavior and tried to stop these two (Numbers 11: 24-29).

Moses, like Jesus, cleverly realigned the thoughts of his disciple. What’s important is for all of us to follow God, let Him in to do work on us, in all the amazing and diverse formats.

The human instinct to implement strict protocols and tradition, as we constantly do nowadays, works against the expression of faith and restrict the ways we experience God.

Respect the ways we all connect with God, accept the fact that there’s no single way to do it.

2. Nip the evil in the bud

Jesus uses exaggerating words to express his points. He tells us that it is better to lose a part of your physical body than for your whole body to go to hell (Matthew 5:29-30). If we take these suggestions literally we would all be physically disabled. What Jesus wants is our utmost attention to the evils lurking in the world; the many injustices torturing your neighbors.

He described the powerless children of his era where they desperately need protection and those who take advantage of them (Matthew 18:6). The role of the weakest in society has been shifting through the ages with advancing social conscience. If we don’t take into account of our social evolution and simply point out that a group is not described in the Bible and therefore not worthy of our attention then we completely miss Jesus’ point.

Empathize with those without power and you will see who are truly oppressed. They can be women, children, refugees and LBGTI communities in different parts of the world at different times.

3. Living together in acceptance of our differences

Chinese culture upholds the concept of harmony but to the extreme that damages the relationship between individuals. We live in an age where certain governments kill and destroy dissenting voices in the name of harmony and ease of governance. Some choose to drown themselves in gluttony, alcohol and substance abuse to numb the pain of injustice dealt to them and those around them. There is no redemption in escapism but a short burst of false joy. There is no acceptance whatsoever in this type of harmony.

This hasn’t changed since the early church days described in Corinthians and book of James. Each is trying to dominate against the other (James 4:1-2). The mindset of “I live at the expense of you” is what our animal instincts point us towards but Jesus wants us to “live and let live.”

This step requires deep transformation and real growth and it doesn’t come easy.

Many passages in the Bible model our spiritual growth with salt (1 Peter 1:7, 4-12). It is purified in fire. It is not easily produced and it requires effort. To love those who are different from us is difficult and this painful tension is what we need to actually grow. This is akin to the concept of a “holding” environment in psychology (Psychology Today) and with time we will earn our “transformation”.

Jesus saw the truth that different opinions will always exist. Stephen Porges, a famed Neuroscientist, says that “Mammals are hard wired to be socially engaged”. Indeed, no man is an island and in order to survive we give and take from each other. Emotionally and otherwise. The relationship is reciprocal.

This is where science meets faith. To build the Kingdom we always speak of we will need the build this precious peace so it may flourish in people around us. A peace that respects our differences and realize that we need each other to survive.

Sir Charles Kuen Kao, the inventor of fiber optics and recipient of the Nobel prize in Physics, saw this beautiful truth that if he patented his technology, the world will not be what it is today. He held a vision of selfless reciprocity and that’s what made the internet possible in so many places for both the rich and the poor.

The peace of a community is beautifully summed up by Frederick Buechner and it starts from all of us today.

Holding in Psychology: