Disagreeing with Jesus does not seem to be an option. Jesus never agrees to disagree. Encounters with the Son of God in the New Testament, end in a variety of ways. A person will respond in positive ways, negative ways, or in no way. The rich young ruler walks away. The tax collectors respond by giving up some of their wealth. Oddly enough, Jesus loves them all. The response does not matter. But one disagreement prompted a response from Jesus
Disagreeing With God
Jesus turns his back to Simon Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan.” Peter is considered to be in opposition to the ways of God. Jesus declares him to be an adversary to God. Why? He expects a human solution.
God does not respond this way to Moses even when Moses opposes God with a slight rebuke. “What will people say if you do this?” Moses asks and God changes the divine mind. When Peter hears Jesus declare the Way of the Cross in Mark 8:31-33, he says it won’t happen. What would the world think of a crucified Messiah? Think about it yourself. If you heard a condemned person was actually the most righteous leader sent by God, how would you respond? What should a Messiah be, if they want followers?
Peter knows what people are looking for. He knows what they will respond to. His idea is confirmed by all of Christian History. Christians often find a way that is like the way of the world about them.
Disagreeing And Mission
Why does Moses get away with disagreeing? Why does Peter not get away with it? The answers involve the mission. Moses knows God will use the Israelites to demonstrate divine faithfulness. He reminds God of the mission. Peter tries the same tactic. He reminds Jesus about the mission. But he has it wrong.
The problem for most of us is that we do too.
What is the Gospel about? Of course, it is about the Kingdom of God. “Jesus came to Galilee…saying, ‘the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe the gospel.'”(Mark 1:14-15) But what does that mean?
The phrase “Kingdom of God” is difficult for modern people. There are few absolute monarchies left in the world. Churches sometimes proclaim a divine and absolute monarchy. The leaders are usually self-appointed courtiers. Some people object to the implied patriarchy of the phrase. Very practical people are willing to say we are “under God” in some way hoping God does not interfere with them. Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor comes to mind.
The word “kindom” is used by some. A kinship exists among all people everywhere in this conception of the divine reign. The mission then is to recognize this inherent kinship and build it up. Fine with me. It is the closest to the original meaning of the kingdom of God. Peter does not get this idea at all. Later, the apostles argue about which of them will be the greatest in the kingdom of God.
The mission is not about who is the greatest in the kingdom. That position is left to God. The problem is an assumed hierarchy. Disagreeing with Jesus is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom. It is “not of this world.” It is not like this world either. Just like we mistake dominion for domination, we assume the idea of all being subject to God includes divine favorites. We start fighting over who is right. The original meaning of heresy was about causing divisions within the church. It was not about getting something wrong. It was about insisting that someone else capitulates to novel dogmatic positions.
All Christians, starting with Simon Peter, have disagreed with Jesus about what is important in the Kingdom of God. While Peter misunderstood, we have lost sight of what is important from time to time. We have fought for the best seats at the table. And when we realize we all lose we come back to our senses.
The Church is the people. The people make errors. But when we persist in errors we devour each other. In many ways we resemble the Israelite kings who fought over the kingdom that ultimately belonged to God. Disagreement can be detrimental when we start proclaiming either our way or God will get you for our sake. When we assume the place of God, we attempt to steal the kingdom from God. And that attempt is more destructive than any other mistake.