Who is the most important? Wow, what a question! As I pondered it I realized how much it dominates contemporary society. Clearly, a question that hasn’t just arisen in modern (or post-modern) times. The disciples were asking it in the first century.
In today’s lectionary gospel reading (Mark 9:30-37) the disciples were discussing the exact same thing. When they were asked what they were talking about we read they were silent because their conversation had been about who was the greatest (34).
Today, that is where I want to remain with my thoughts. I want to ponder that question a while. I’m not even going to focus on Jesus’ response to it.
As I read the first thing I noted was that the discussion became an argument. Discord and disharmony was sown. The “twelve” had walked together, eaten together, worked together and witnessed great things together. Yet, as soon as they try to discern who is the most important it becomes an argument.
Next I noted that when asked what the argument was about they became silent. They were obviously embarrassed to admit what they had been talking about. Deep down, within themselves they knew it was a wrong question to ask, a divisive topic. They had no words.
So, as I fast forward to thinking about contemporary times and the relevance of the question today, I see many areas where this question has been asked, and needs to continue to be asked.
Who are more important —men or women?
Patriarchy is still alive and well in 2018! Although great strides have been made in moving toward equality there is still much to be done. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the events of the last couple of weeks. Men accused some priests of sexual abuse. Even though it had happened many years previously it was taken seriously —and rightly so. Then a woman accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual abuse. Sadly, I have read many comments that are dismissive. They consider it was too long ago, there was even a suggestion that a police report should be produced to prove it was true. A very different standard for the men who disclosed abuse. Are men still more important than women even in 2018? Is the word of a man more trustworthy?
Who are more important —those who are white or those who are black?
Racial discrimination is still alive and well in 2018! In a small section of our latest book, Nurturing Strangers (anticipated publication date December 2018) Andy and I address the discrimination of those children we have fostered who have been non-white. We tell stories in the book, including one where a challenge was made in a store over purchased goods. This never happened with our white foster children. When the “Black Lives Matter” movement began it was immediately countered with slogans saying “All Lives Matter” completely missing the point. White lives have always mattered! Pew research shows the extent of the prejudice (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/on-views-of-race-and-inequality-blacks-and-whites-are-worlds-apart/)
This blog is long enough so I’ll just quickly add a few more instances to ponder . . .
Who are more important Gay, Transgender or Straight people?
Who are more important children or adults?
Who are more important old or young?
Who are more important able-bodied or disabled?
Who are more important Christians or non-Christians?
And my list could probably go on and on and on.
I think these couple of verses in today’s lectionary contain one of the greatest challenges in the Gospels. It is essential that if contemporary society is to move to greater harmony these issues need to be faced fearlessly. It starts with a sort of personal inventory on an individual’s inner beliefs with a willingness to change. And, after a willingness to change a determination to be an advocate, to stand up for injustice in whatever form that takes.
(Photo: Atlantic Ocean, Cape Henlopen, Summer 2018)