Read Luke 9
If you grew up with siblings you likely recall arguing with them over territory. I remember the fights I would get into with my younger sister over where the line was that divided the back seat of the car when we were traveling. It became an international incident if so much as a fingernail crossed the line. As we grow up we think of issues like that as petty, yet we continue in different ways to stake out our claims and try to protect them. If you were to try taking over the responsibilities of a co-worker at your place of work you might quickly realize that adults can also be somewhat aggressively territorial. Very few of us are not upset by someone intruding on what we deem as “our territory”, though these territories are often very uniquely defined.
In today’s reading Jesus’ disciples attempt to stop someone who was not “one of the approved group followers” from casting out demons in the name so Jesus. They are surprised when Jesus corrects them rather than applauding their actions.
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” (v. 49-50)
I wonder if we would perhaps receive a similar rebuke from Jesus when we speak negatively of the practice of people of Christian traditions different than our own.
I have come to believe that a great deal of what we label as “doctrinal” regarding the differences between us is very often a misunderstanding of culture and practice. This is not to suggest that there are not some groups who teach and practice things, which are clearly counter to what scripture teaches.
Perhaps it is a matter of finding what we look for. If I visit a group of believers who have a faith practice that is unlike what I am familiar with and begin looking for things that I do not care for, it is quite likely that I will find some. On the other hand if I look for areas upon which we can agree, I will likely find a great deal of things that we can agree upon. As I focus on the things we agree upon, it may begin to help me understand that some of the things I would be inclined not to care for might just be things that I have misinterpreted or misunderstood. Realistically it is entirely possible that I will still find things that I do not understand, but I may find that many of the things I thought were weird are really just different ways of expressing or practicing what I believe to be normal.