Squabbling Or Serving – Your Choice

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Walter Albritton

By WALTER ALBRITTON

RELIGION —

A ttitudes matter. We have choices. In the tenth chapter of his Gospel, Mark describes at one point the attitude of two disciples, James and John, who were brothers. Then immediately he portrays the different attitude of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. James and John ask Jesus for power; Bartimaeus asks Jesus for mercy.

In crying for mercy, Bartimaeus was admitting he did not deserve the favor of Jesus. His request was the humble plea of a man who knew his only hope for sight was the Messiah’s mercy. James and John, on the other hand, felt they deserved an advantage over the other disciples — choice positions of power in the coming Kingdom of Jesus.

Their self-seeking may nauseate us but it does not surprise us. We see it all the time — in ourselves and in others. We are all tempted to curry favor with those in authority so we may gain an advantage over others. Our churches often suffer from dissension as otherwise good people struggle for power to “run the church.” Old Guard leaders are reluctant to relinquish their authority to newcomers who may change their sacred traditions. The “power brokers” in some churches often forget that the Head of the church, the living Christ, has called us all to serve others, not “lord it over others.”

James and John learned an important lesson. Their grasping for favor caused immediate discord among the disciples. The unity of the small band of men was broken by anger and envy. Instead of serving one another in love, they were squabbling among themselves. Attitudes build or destroy unity.

Lest we judge James and John too harshly, we should admit how easy it is to forget our calling — to live as servants of Jesus in all our relationships. When we remember that, we will refrain from petty struggles for power and look instead for new and simple ways to serve others without fanfare.

It is likely that Mark intentionally linked the story of blind Bartimaeus to the incident with James and John for a reason. To help us ask, for example, who suffered from the greater blindness — James and John or Bartimaeus? At least Bartimaeus realized he was blind and needed help. James and John were blind and did not know it. They were blind to the nature of authentic discipleship. They failed to “see” what Jesus had been teaching them about servanthood. Though they walked daily in the presence of the Light of the world, they were blind to the essential truth of Jesus’ teaching.

As we live out our days, we should be careful to choose the right attitude when Jesus asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Doing so could inspire us to pray, “Open our blind eyes, Lord, and in your mercy give us only the power to serve you daily in fresh, new ways.” 

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