“Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3: 22 – 30
This scripture reminds me of the doctrinal differences that separate us as Christians into the various churches and denominations. Unfortunately, we squabble between and within churches about whose doctrines are right or wrong and seek to win people over to our church on this basis. Jesus and his disciples were baptizing people. John and his disciples were also baptizing people. There was a dispute between John’s disciples and a Jew about what one could perceive as a doctrinal matter regarding purification (ceremonial washing). The Jew then tried to undermine John’s conviction or understanding of purification by saying that all the people were going to Jesus to be baptized.
Rather than argue over the matter and cause division, John pledged allegiance to Christ under one body serving God. John described himself as the friend of the Bridegroom (Jesus) who is just happy to see the bride (people/church) and the Bridegroom united, and on this basis his joy is fulfilled. John showed the Jew that being joined to Christ is the most important matter.
There will be times during my faith where people from different religions or denominations will question my beliefs. Should I be able to explain what I believe? Of course I should. Nevertheless, John’s example suggests that doctrinal differences are not to be dwelt upon as they can become divisive. Moreover, we must be careful that we do not indulge in our own selfish pride to win a theological battle. It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus. “He must increase, but I must decrease”. As long as people have accepted Christ into their lives through baptism – our joy should be full.
It is also interesting to note that at the beginning of chapter 4, Jesus decides to retreat especially after the Pharisees knew Jesus baptized more people than John. “Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.” John 4:1. If Jesus can be humble and selfless enough to retreat for the sake of unity under One God, I can too.
Father God, it is a blessing to read your Holy Word, I marvel at how relevant it is to our lives today. Thank you Lord for leaving this Book of Wisdom with us so that we can learn to manage our lives according to Your Will.
I pray that you will help us not to draw attention to ourselves or doctrinal matters that are more likely to divide than unite and may have little bearing upon our salvation. Help us to retreat and humble ourselves as Jesus did. Teach us to rejoice and glorify You as John did when people find You, even if they do not join our church or denomination. They are not joining us or our church… they are joining You.
In Jesus’ Name