In the following passage, we have a man who was healed by Jesus and told specifically not to tell anyone but to go straight to the priest. The man, elated at what God had done through Christ, immediately told everyone he came in contact with and ultimately, his disobedience lead to a premature termination of Christ’ ministry in that town.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
– Mark 1:40-45
This gives me cause to pause and ponder at my own life looking for those times of good intentions that were laced with disobedience. Have I hindered the sharing of the gospel due to a prideful misinterpretation of God’s work in my life? In other words, I’m doing anything that I think is a ‘good’ thing without God condoning my act of service.
The first thing that comes to my mind is hurtful tracts that are prevalent among evangelicals. I believe they were all created with the intent of spreading the Gospel, but some are filled with hurtful speech that rather turns people off, throw up their defenses and walk away. Not that we should not be convicted for our sins, but there is a time and a place. I’ve even seen brothers and sisters in Christ leave them as “tips” for the wait staff instead of money. I believe this sends the wrong message and most likely their efforts are thrown away.
I believe that Paul encountered the same behavior in his letter to the Philippians. As the Gospel first spread through out the post-resurrection first century, it was a symbol of status among religious circles (think of the modern day televangelist) to have claimed to know the Messiah & apostles first hand. They preached as though Christ gave them a personal message as well. Paul comments on their behavior:
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”