Read this this morning:
12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.
This passage is sometimes hard for me to handle. Paul is writing while in prison rejoicing that Christ is being preached. The Gospel is going out with good motives as well as with bad motives and Paul is happy either way.
But Paul! Those other guys are wrong and your guys are right. Naha are you ok with the wrong guys preaching Jesus? Doesn’t that make it harder for the people with good hearts and motives? Doesn’t that hurt the message?
From a modern market perspective this could lead to “brand confusion” and people could get a bad perspective on the gospel.
Paul you should have a much bigger problem with these other guys.
But Paul rejoices. Why? Because the gospel of Jesus sets people free. And the gospel of Jesus is bigger than Paul and his team or the other guys and their team.
The gospel is bigger than our personal motives and more powerful than our attitudes towards other teams.
When I was a younger man I got really fired up over theological disagreements. I thought that the gospel was able to tell me who is in and who is wrong. And if people were doing it wrong I got mad. Things like the prosperity gospel were tremendous irritants for me. Because it felt like people were preaching Jesus with the wrong motive. This is still an irritant and I can find myself falling into worthless debates but then I remember that Jesus is bigger than the prosperity gospel.
If they are preaching Jesus as the provider of grace for sin and the only way to God the Father, then I can learn to overlook the prosperity gospel theology that I disagree with and focus on Jesus.
It’s really hard though to do that. Probably because my faith in Jesus has largely been a convenient thing. I’ve never lost a job or been imprisoned because of my faith. Paul has and when that happens it can either solidify your faith or push you away from faith. I want my faith in Jesus to be bigger than prison, bigger than persecution and bigger than the areas where I disagree with others.