Connections 11.18.2018: Insight for Divisive Times

Mark 13:1-13

The United States political and religious climate is nothing short of divisive, often in devastating ways. Within my own extended family, there have been threats of withholding contact due to political and religious differences. One person asked how the other could claim to be a Christian while holding a particular point of view. It’s almost certain that the other person feels the same way about the one who asked the question. A judgment that seems so obvious about one side may seem equally obvious about the other.

This scenario is played out again and again on the main stage of politics. As I write, it’s the day after Election Tuesday. I’m a resident of Georgia, and the big news is the hotly contested, incredibly close governor’s race. By the time this article posts, the result will be decided. It is almost certain that the losing side will be disappointed, angry, maybe even dubious of the way the votes were counted. Losing a race like this one makes you feel a bit hopeless.

In two years, we’ll be voting on a president, and these divisions will be even more evident. Uglier. Louder. More painful.

One of my relatives is certain that the end is near. The rest of us have been subject to this person’s warnings and prophecies. Those of us who align with a certain political party have been told that we are Satan incarnate. Who wouldn’t want insight in times like these, when family member rises against family member?

We want to go to Scripture for such insight, but sometimes we don’t get exactly what we’re looking for. In today’s text, Jesus offers several troubling insights, including this one: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (vv. 12-13).

Many of us can say that we have seen the beginnings of such things. Indeed, Jesus says that his insights about division and war are “but the beginning of the birth pangs” (v. 8). What will be born? How much influence can we have over what is to come?

There is a bit of hope and comfort in these verses, but we have to look deeply to find it. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will help us find the right words (v. 11) and that those of us who endure will be saved (v. 13). In times like these, we need such hope and comfort.

When we wonder how to live in ways that serve our mighty God, I would encourage us to remember what Jesus said before he “dropped the mic”: “Love God and love people” (Mk 12:29-30, see a previous Connections article). If we’re not sure what it looks like to love God and love people (especially, for example, those who view us as Satan), we can at least know that studying the teachings and the lived witness of Jesus is a good place to start.

Discussion

1. What discourages you about the current political climate in the United States? Is there anything that encourages you?
2. Why do you think issues of religion and politics cause such deep division among people, even in families?
3. Jesus said that the things he foretold were “but the beginning of the birth pangs” (v. 8). What do you think will be born? How much influence do followers of Christ have over what is to come?
4. What does it mean to you that you shouldn’t worry about what to say because the Holy Spirit will give you the words (v. 11)? When have you found that to be true in your experience?
5. What does it mean to you to endure (v. 13)? What are we enduring? What will it mean to be saved due to our endurance?

Reference Shelf

The phrase “because of my name” (dia to onoma mou) is equivalent to “because of me” (heneken emou in v. 9), but it also evokes echoes of the references to receiving a child, casting out demons, doing deeds of power, and receiving a cup of water in the name of Christ. The apocalyptic and mission sayings in Mark are therefore closely related. In times of persecution and speculation that the end of time is near, the church should renew its faithfulness to its primary mission—proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Those who remain faithful and endure in such times will be “saved.” Does Mark mean that they will be spared from the persecution, or does he have the theological sense of this term in mind?… Craig Evans argues for the latter, citing 4 Ezra 6:25, “whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world.” In Mark 10:29-30 Jesus offers a similar assurance to the disciples; they will experience persecutions—“and in the age to come eternal life.”

R. Alan Culpepper, Mark, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007), 458–59.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley attends First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (13) and Natalie (11), and her husband John. Currently, she is looking for the next opportunity to be onstage in a local theater production. She also loves Marvel movies and Doctor Who, and she will always be a writer at heart.

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