The Gospel of Mark and Polytheism: Supersize or Downsize Me?
By Ron Clark, Portland, OR
Polytheism is a word we do not think about to often. The word means “many gods.” The term suggests that an individual believes and worships more than one God or Lord. We do not meet many people who are polytheists, here in America, so most of us understand worship as a one on one relationship with a god or divine being. Balance is a word we do understand. Balance means that everything is equal, in harmony, or in order.
When Jesus called his disciples he called working men. Peter and Anderew were fishing and he call ed them to follow him (Mark 1:14-18). They dropped their nets. James and John were sewing/fixing their torn nets after a night of fishing. They dropped their nets (Mark 1:19-20). Matthew was working collecting taxes (Mark 2:13-14). He abandoned his calculator (maybe without even turning it off).
I remember when I was converted I was taught that these verses showed us that "Jesus calls working people." If you want something done, get someone who is busy. If you ask a busy person to do it, they will find the time and do it quickly. If someone has the time, they will not follow Jesus. If they are not working, they will not be spiritual. 20% of the people in the church do 80% of the work. This was my philosophy when I became a Christian. This was my ethic.
Then I began to study with people, baptize people, and help Christians heal and return to the front line. I found out something. 20% of the people do 80% of the work because we only ask the same 20% to work. We assume that the 80% may not work so we don't find something for them to do--unlike the guy in Matthew who invited everyone to work in the vineyard. I also found that the 20% were already maxed out--but worked on adrenaline and guilt. I am a recovering adrenalinaholic and guilt user (well not really--still struggling with addiction). Yet I continued to use the 20% and ask them over and over again to work. This, in spite of the fact that I was needing to learn to set boundaries and say "No to Adrenaline and Guilt Drugs." Then I began to hear from people that they didn't have time for God. That they were burned out. That they were tired and empty in their spirituality. My solution--"Jesus called working people--work it out." There we go, drive old Satan away--idle hands and idle minds are the devil's workshops.
In a world of polythesim worshipping many gods was very complex. Life was about balance and keeping everything and every god happy. Worshippers lived somewhat in fear and tried to keep many plates (gods) in their favor. The call to monotheism (one god) was both risky and more simpler. To follow one god meant that you risked ticking all the other gods off. But it provided a sense of peace and rest. One god meant that everything you needed came from one source. It was sort of Walmart god (one stop shopping). When Yahweh tells Israel that they were to be completely devoted to Him it was not one more thing to do--it was the only thing to do. When Jesus called the disciples to follow him, it made their life less complicated. One God and one Lord did not "supersize" or "complicate" one's life. It downsized it. God was not trying to make our lives more complicated, He was trying to make them simpler. Jesus was not piling another plate on a crowded schedule, he was calling them to downsize.
The call to follow Jesus is a chance to downsize, rest, and put things into perspective. The call to follow Jesus is not meant to make us "busier," "stressed out," or "adrenaline junkies." The call was not even meant to make guilty people guiltier. It was and is meant to give us peace. Maybe that is what it means to "repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15).
What think ye?