HEARTLAND | Jim Rahtjen
Editor’s note: Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention became a hot topic earlier this summer, when a group of leaders wrote a statement affirming “traditional” Southern Baptist theology. Columnist Jim Rahtjen explains how he was convicted of his own pride, and convinced that encouraging fellow ministers is more important than judging their views on secondary issues.
John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he is not one of us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50
I had no idea John’s statement and Jesus’ reply would dramatically change my life and ministry, but I’m immensely grateful it did.
I had been preaching through the book of Luke, this was the next passage. The week before, God showed me a mountain of spiritual pride in my life, and this week He would show me it was more like a mountain range.
In Luke 9, the disciples argued among themselves as to who was the greatest (a prideful game that I myself had played in my mind). John changed the subject and told Jesus of the disciples’ efforts to thwart the ministry of this man who was casting out demons but “wasn’t one of us.” Jesus told them to stop hindering him.
What a tragedy! This man had a calling he couldn’t fulfill because the disciples hindered him. The disciples had a calling of their own which they neglected in order to hinder this man.
God showed me myself in this passage when I prepared to preach it. You see, in those days, I defined myself by my theology; consequently, if a brother wasn’t of my theological persuasion, if he “wasn’t one of us,” I’d look down at him with an attitude of superiority. The Lord illustrated this to me the next week as I attended the Southern Baptist Convention.
At the convention, I saw a man who was my mentor in college. He invested deeply in my life teaching me one-on-one how to grow spiritually, have a quiet time, and study and apply the Bible to daily life. He loved Jesus, loved me, and loved to quote his favorite preacher, Charles Spurgeon. I still deeply love this man, see him as a spiritual father and seek his counsel today.
At the convention, I also ran into another mentor who invested in me as I began to serve in ministry. He taught me one-on-one how to faithfully serve as a minister and deepen my spiritual walk. He introduced me personally to Well-known theologians who began to shape my theology. He loved Jesus, loved me, and loved to quote one of his favorite preachers, Charles Spurgeon.
Because of their common investment in my life, and their mutual respect for Charles Spurgeon, I thought it would be great for them to meet. I mentioned to my first mentor that my second mentor was at the convention. I told him about some of the men to whom he had introduced me.
He bristled and asked, “Is he a Calvinist? Are YOU a Calvinist?” And over the next few days, without knowing my mentor, he made several unflattering assumptions about him based solely on a stereotype of Calvinists. I thought, “But you don’t know him. You’d love him. He’s one of us!”
The next day, when I saw my second mentor, he had same reaction in reverse. I told him about my first mentor’s appraisal of Calvinists. He bristled and said, “Oh, don’t tell me he’s an Arminian!” And then he began to make inaccurate assumptions of my mentor, based on a stereotype of Arminians. Again, I thought, “No, you’ve got him all wrong. You’d love this man. He’s a brother!”
My mind went back to the lesson from the passage I had just preached. Rather than encouraging a man, the disciples allowed their bias to get in the way. They saw him as an opponent and tried to hinder him, rather than seeing him as an ally in God’s Kingdom.
From that moment, I asked the Lord to help me to tear down that mountain of pride in my life that causes me to judge a brother by his theology rather than know and encourage him. I came to better understand what Jesus said to John: “Stop hindering him. He who’s not against you is for you.”
Jim Rahtjen is chairman of the IBSA Board of Directors.