The Christians in Jerusalem’s early church were in crisis. Should they admit gentiles into their fellowship? Could gentiles be believers? Resolution of these questions did not come easily, but finally the Jews swallowed their pride and begrudgingly allowed the gentile outsiders to come into the fold.
When I began my ministry at Church of the Redeemer, I worried each Sunday that the choir would outnumber the congregation. Everybody knew we had to grow. “We have to grow, you know,” they’d say, with all the enthusiasm of a person scheduling a dental appointment. “We need to attract new members and change,” they would say.
If you are reading this column hoping to get some insight into Mark 9:49-50, you can stop now. These verses are intensely obscure; the commentaries offer little help; neither I nor anyone I know has received a special revelation explaining the text. Let us simply agree to move on to other matters. By this point in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has started to speak openly about his impending death.
I ran into Perry recently. How many years has it been, I wonder? I came to know Perry when he visited our church. He was a man with no passion of his own, a guy who walked from church to church and seemed to come to life only when he discovered some well-hidden heresy or doctrinal error. For Perry, Christianity was only a means to an end.