John 20:19–23 ‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”’(v19)
A United Nations report found 23,000 distinct denominations world-wide, when Jesus’ prayer was that we might be one (John 17:20–23)The disciples hid away behind closed doors, fearing punishment from fellow Jews with whom they disagreed about the nature of Jesus, something of an open debate since this was only the evening of resurrection day. Here are the seeds that destroy Christian witness. Called to live the good news and serve a world in search of a saviour, we easily get entangled in arguments amongst ourselves; hence so many denominations, themselves a cause for public scepticism.
Just as doubt demands we honestly face questions, so we are invited to find a common commitment to God’s truth in constructive dialogue despite our different Christian convictions. Whilst we disagree with each other’s beliefs, often we’ve never extended the courtesy of finding out what our supposed opponent actually believes. This breeds a fear of ‘the other’, or of something we don’t fully understand. We create caricatures simply to reinforce our own Christian perspective.
We run the danger of becoming blind guides (Matt. 15:14). Today, ‘pharisee’ is a synonym for hypocrite, and sadly we need to face that charge ourselves. These disciples needed a conviction in the risen Lord, but also in the power of the Spirit, if they were to get out of their locked room and engage with a confused world with their message of hope.
SCRIPTURE TO CONSIDER: Jer. 2:1–8; Ezek. 13:1–16; Matt 5:17–26; Mark 7:1–23.
AN ACTION TO TAKE: How much do you know about those Christian groups you might criticise, be they Catholics or Pentecostals?
A PRAYER TO MAKE: ‘Lord, teach me to love my perceived enemy and find out where we disagree in practice through conversation not perception. Amen.’