by Pastor Matt Bishop
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If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand (Mark 3:25).
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the unemployment rate peaked at 28.1 per cent and averaged 23.4 per cent over 1930–34. To put this in perspective, during the COVID-19 economic upheaval, so far, the unemployment rate peaked at 7.4 per cent in June 2020 and is now back down to the mid-5 per cent. It is commonly accepted that the stubbornly high unemployment rate and accompanying human misery of the Great Depression was caused mainly by countries undermining each other. They should have been cooperating for the good of each other, as they have in the COVID-19 response. It’s a common theme in life: people who know better don’t try hard enough to get along.
In the reading today, Jesus is attacked by two groups that really should have known better. His family accuse him of being mad. The teachers of the law – Israel’s teachers – accuse him of being in partnership with Satan, ‘By the prince of demons he is driving out demons’ (Mark 3:22).
Jesus addresses the teachers of the law first. He points out how illogical their statement is. Jesus wouldn’t tie up the demons – as he has been doing in his exorcisms – if he were on Satan’s side. That house would not stand. He graciously warns them to not blaspheme the Spirit any longer because the Spirit can’t forgive that sin … which is commonly interpreted as meaning that they need to address their unbelief and stop relying on their own self-righteousness lest they remain unforgiven. Jesus then addresses his family, reminding them that his true family are those who do God’s will (verse 34).
It strikes me that in the church, not least our local congregations, people who really do know better spend too much undermining each other and not getting along. Like Jesus’ family and the teachers of the law, we too quickly revert to labels or impugn false motives. A house divided cannot stand! Jesus provides the answer when he tells us to do God’s will, having clearly laid it out in Mark 1:15, ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news’. This is pure gospel. It’s the offer of forgiveness, a time to make a new start. It’s an opportunity to no longer blaspheme against the Spirit in unbelief and self-justification. It’s an invitation to be embraced in God’s family. Thank God! For much more than economic misery is at stake.
Lord Jesus, lead me to repent so that I do not grieve you or your Holy Spirit. In the confidence of your forgiveness, help me to right my wrongs and treat all people as though it were you that I was talking with or about. Through your Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.