When the crowd saw Jesus, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, 'What are you arguing about with them?' Someone from the crowd answered him, 'Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.' He answered them, 'You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.' And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.' Jesus said to him, 'If you are able!-All things can be done for the one who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out, 'I believe; help my unbelief!' When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!' After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, 'He is dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?' He said to them, 'This kind can come out only through prayer.' - Mark 9:14-29
I don't know what to make of this passage. It speaks to the necessity of prayer, but it scares me. Are there events that haven't happened, 'demons' that haven't been cast out, peoples who's lives have not been changed all because I haven't prayed enough? That's an infinite amount of potential guilt that I can heap on myself! Does God really hamstring himself and his work in the world by depending on the faith of his followers? Does he really abrogate that much of his power?
These are tough questions that we could argue about forever without reaching any solid conclusion. However as I read the passage through again I was drawn to Jesus question 'What are you arguing about with them?' The disciples were arguing about this boy, his treatment, and their inability to cast out the demon. You can imagine Jesus' frustration with them. He calls the boy to him and after a brief dialogue he heals the boy by casting out the demon.
I love a good theological discussion. I love to pose conundrums and questions. I love to reflect deeply and question my interior motivations and drives. This is all good and necessary, but it can be a distraction, there are times when we all need to stop arguing theology and get on with loving and healing the world. I live in two states simultaneously, Belief and Unbelief. In the midst of my questions about God it is comforting to know that God doesn't condemn me for them. The Father declares that he believes and he doubts, and Jesus responds in love by healing his son.
Jesus loves someone who doesn't have his theological ducks lined up. When the followers of Jesus couldn't help and lost sight of the issue while arguing, Jesus stepped in. When the father admitted his own unbelief, Jesus stepped in.
Instead of arguing about people, issues, politics, right and wrong, I need to step in and be a loving and healing presence in the world.