Comparison and Criticism – Is There a Difference?

Mark 9:33-37

Tourists who visit foreign countries always return with certain impressions. Europeans who visit America also go back home with certain impressions. Because we lived in Europe and spoke German, Europeans often shared impressions of America with us that most Americans would never hear. Sometimes they either didn’t know or just forgot that we were Americans.

Thomas and Daniel from the Czech Republic. The Hornungs and Hofmanns met them at a street meeting in Budweis. They were surprised to learn that we knew them well and I had even preached in their church.

I doubt seriously that Daniel and Thomas shared all their impressions (“for sale by owner,” bicycles in the bedroom, “swim wear 40% off”, church members driving nicer cars than their President, Governor and Mayor) with Pastor Hornung or the church, but they shared them with me because they felt I would understand.

Mark 9 begins with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Two worlds collide! Peter, James and John belonged to the so-called "inner circle of disciples, but now they become "outsiders looking in". Peter's suggestion is understandable and the three shrines would make great tourist attractions today but in the Lord's mind, it was improper. Jesus was on home turf.

Then Jesus heals a possessed boy which the other 8 disciples could not heal (verses 14-29).

In verses 30-32, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection but the disciples didn't understand.

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
Mark 9:33-37

Jesus preached and he taught. And he gave us the commission to preach and teach. If you follow the NT carefully, you get a picture of how this was accomplished. As a rule, Jesus preached to the multitudes outdoors, but he taught the disciples indoors. This is also the main difference between missions and church, sending and gathering (fellowship). Our relationships are different when we are in the world and with the unsaved and when we are among fellow believers. How?

When in a hostile world, we are careful about what we say and how we say it, but in the fellowship of believers, we sometimes tend to be outspoken and opinionated.

You don't get people saved criticizing them; or finding fault with the foundation on which they stand – their beliefs. You give them the gospel and let the truth and the Holy Spirit do their work.

We know of a missionary in Austria who at first argued with Austrians (most who are Roman Catholic) that the Pope is the Antichrist and the Catholic Church is a false religion. He made many enemies and the few who got saved were already dissatisfied with the church for personal reasons. Once in the church, these "converts" criticized what they didn't like in the church. Their attitude hadn't changed. The Lord convicted that missionary just like he admonished his beloved disciple John in Mark 3:38-41 (read!). Like John, that missionary was pronouncing judgment from a "Them and Us" attitude, but Jesus loved us and died for us "while we were yet sinners."

Our missionary friend prayerfully decided on an entirely different approach to evangelism. He has become one of the most effective missionaries in Austria, founding a number of growing churches in at least four provinces. His father owned a seed business that was highly esteemed for its quality in Europe. He gave seed to his missionary son, who visited farmers and gardeners, offering them free seed with one condition. They were to give ten percent of the yield to needy people.

May 3 was the World Day of Prayer. We may be aware of the fact that this event is largely run by the ecumenical crowd, but we need to be careful about our criticisms. We are hopefully aware that President Trump is not a born-again Christian, but that is no reason to criticize VP Mike Pence or even Donald Trump for taking part in the White House Prayer Breakfast.

Just because I have a difference with someone or a group, is not reason to openly criticize them. Verses 42-50 is about causing Offence and possible corrections. Jesus probably has a child or two in his lap while he teaches the disciples (see verses 36-7 and 42-50).

When a husband and wife quarrel with each other, how do little kids react? When unknowing people on the sidelines see people having a shouting match over religious matters, the devil wins. It doesn't matter to kids or unsaved onlookers who is right; religion – even Bible truth gets discredited. When Jesus was criticized, he responded often by asking a question or telling them a parable. When Austrians took issue with my faith, I often looked for a picture on the wall and asked, "What is more important, the picture or the frame?" Then I showed them that the primary differences between the RC and protestants could be fond in the framework – traditions, rituals, buildings etc. All Christians claim to believe in God, the Bible, the virgin birth, Christ's atonement for our sin on the cross and his resurrection.

What about comparisons?
These may be used but there are certain rules to follow. All men are created in God's image and have the freedom to make choices. I made a comparison in the above example, but I was careful not to belittle or insult the other person. We should simply present the gospel truth and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. They must make the choice and we can't do it for them.

The same is true in the fellowship of believers. There will always be differences but criticizing only causes division. Like a salesman, we can compare what we believe is right with what others believe, but every person needs to choose for himself. If we are both seeking to know God's will in order to do it, we can know (John 7:17).

Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another Mark 9:50.

When Europeans brought up the slavery issue or treatment of native Americans, I used a sprinkle of salt in my reply. "Slavery and injustice takes many forms and is always wrong, but I dare say that this is a universal problem with men and women who reject Christ. Actually, nearly all early colonists in America came from Europe. The slave trade had its roots in Europe and it would be wrong to condemn the buyers of slaves without using the same measure for those who profited most from slavery.

Ralph V Harvey