Conquering the “stop them” and “not one of us” Attitudes! Reflection for the 26th Sunday in ordinary time (year B). Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

US VERSUS THEM - As Of Right Now

We live in a world that is broadly segmented into groups. Psychologists would take the idea further to what they refer to as “us vs. them” mentality, which refers to the notion of perceiving oneself as a member of a group that is better than an alternate group based on some distinguishing factors like religion, gender, culture, nationality, ideology, and others.

The creation story in the Book of Genesis (1:26-27) tells us that God created humankind, in other words, one human race and not races as we have fragmented our world today. Furthermore, God gave man dominion over all he created, which means stewardship, but man turned it into domination, that is, forceful control.

We see the manifestation of forceful control in the way we handle our environment and the hostility we show to each other in our living spaces. We see this happening with the growing barriers we set against ourselves in the foregrounds of our natural differences like color, culture, and geographical location  

“Stop them” Attitude

The Book of Numbers (11:25-29) tells us an interesting story. Earlier, God had asked Moses to appoint seventy elders to assist him as officers (Numbers 11:16). Then, on the inauguration day, God took some spirit from Moses and put it on the seventy elders, and they started to prophesy.

Two men who were in the list of the seventy elders, Eldad and Medad, could not show up for the meeting for undisclosed reasons, but they were seen prophesying at the same time as the sixty-eight who were present at the tent of meeting.

An unnamed young man reported the episode to Moses, immediately Joshua, who happens to be Moses’ aide, suggested that Moses stop them. But Moses cautioned Joshua not to be jealous of him and added that he wished that all the people were prophets.

Both the young man who reported the event and Joshua felt that the physical exclusion of the two elders from the group should be a disadvantage for them to gain access to the divine facility of prophecy. For that reason, they needed to be stopped.

Sometimes, we attempt to think for God or even tell God what to think when it should be the other way—stopping the elders from prophesying amounts to redirecting the work of God or telling God how to function.

We are often not far from the “stop them attitude” when we erroneously presume that we have exclusive access to God’s mind than anyone else. Some people would even support their preconceived rights over God’s plans by quoting the scripture that says: “Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).

“Not one of us” Attitude

The Gospel of Mark (9:38-43,45,47-48), among other things, tells us about the “not one of us” Attitude of the disciples of Jesus against someone they saw driving out demons using the name of Jesus Christ. They had tried to stop the individual, but Jesus rebuked them, saying that whoever is using his name would not be again him.

In the narrative, we see the disciples exhibiting the “us vs. them” mentality, which creates unjustifiable barriers between insiders and outsiders. They wanted to have an exclusive right to use the name of Jesus Christ to pray in the region and beyond.

Sometimes we falsely think that we would lose our relevance when people reflect on what we do in the name of God. Jesus did not bring a gospel that would be managed just by a select few. The disciples would soon discover their folly when Jesus will ask them to make disciples of all nations and be witnesses not only in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria but also to the ends of the world (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).

One of the greatest discoveries we could make in our day and age is to realize that “each of us” is “one of us.” Therefore, the name of Jesus Christ should bring us together and not divide us. It is unfortunate that in our day and age, people are still trying to stop others from using the name of Jesus Christ through some attitudes that send people running away from the faith.  

Moving Forward: Attitude Change

Moving forward, one truth we should learn and accept is that we all share one basic substance: our humanness. Other distinguishing characteristics we raise among ourselves are mere accidents. At birth, we are born the same way. Did you notice that there are no differences in the sound of babies’ cries all over the world? Likewise, death is the same all over the world.

It makes no sense to set up barriers and hindering others because our human judgment tells us that they are not one of us. Remember that God is not interested in how we look but what we say and do, and He can use anyone, anytime, and anywhere.

Notice that the person who saw the two elders prophesying did not report the content of their prophecy, but he is more concerned about their presence in the group. The disciples were not worried by demons that the individual expelled by using the name of Jesus, but they were interested in who was using the name of Jesus to expel demons.

Finally, we need an attitude change in the way we relate to others, especially in our service of God; in fact, the attitude of excluding other shows our ignorance. We are all servants of God, so there is no need to act like God takes orders from us. So, as our Lord Jesus Christ instructed in the Gospel narrative, we need to cut away anything that would cause us to stop others or prevent them from having access to God.

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

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