When the disciples of Jesus came across someone casting out demons in Christ’s name, they tried to stop him; they simply couldn’t imagine God being in any ministry except their own. (Lk 9:49)
After all, they were the Twelve Apostles, following the Messiah literally, physically, participating directly in Christ’s work with Him. Clearly, anything less was unacceptable. How could anyone else be serving God and not directly involved in Christ’s earthly ministry, as one of Christ’s personal disciples and followers?
It’s a common temptation: we get something right, and then think ourselves superior to all those who don’t quite get it like we do. We tend to view our own particular ministry, denomination, or way of engaging with God as superior to all others, thinking everyone should do it our way. We fear that which is different and unfamiliar, and we want to diminish, control, extinguish or quarantine it.
Yet Christ Himself doesn’t view even His own ministry this way, and corrects the disciples here. (Lk 9:50) Christ wants some folk to be serving Him elsewhere; He’s working through them in a different place and venue. (Lk 8:38-39) This isn’t a problem; it’s God’s perfect plan.
The beauty of The Way is that it isn’t bound to a single organization, race, culture or time period, or to a single protocol or structure; it transcends all temporal divisions, customs and barriers. (Ac 10:35) It doesn’t favor a certain personality type or learning style; it recognizes diversity as the gift of God, enriching, strengthening and completing spiritual community. (1Co 12:4) The principles of righteousness can be applied in any context, and godliness can look very different from one setting to the next. (5-6)
Some of us prefer more structure and ritual in our worship, others more freedom and spontaneity. (Ro 14:5) Some of us are more emotional and expressive, others more reverent and still. In matters of preference, where God has not prescribed a pattern, style or format, we ought not to impose ours, or think any less of those who approach God differently. (4) Even when motives are evidently impure, we should rejoice whenever truth is proclaimed, in whatever style or fashion it’s presented. (Php 1:18)
Bold conviction in godly principles (Ga 2:14), which are thoroughly grounded in Scripture (Mt 15:9), and deference in our preferences (1Co 9:19); this is the way of love.