In addition to ‘arguing’ some saints think they are helping God out by always ‘straightening out’ those who do things differently. Perhaps we all have something to learn from Mark 9:38-41.
James and John, two of Christ’s key leaders, were aptly named the ‘sons of thunder.’ Was there a storm when they were born or more likely was their personality prone to sudden microbursts like the weather systems of our world?
The Bible does not hide the lackings in its leaders, the failures in followers, the stumblings of God’s saints. We gain a close up snapshot of John and the admonition of Jesus who spoke the truth in love to this leader.
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Sound familiar? Here’s a serious follower of Christ, a student reporting to his Teacher, a disciple reporting to his Master. In the course of a day’s ministry, the team saw a ‘competitor’ or so they thought. They assumed this man’s methodology and ministry patterns were in error. Hadn’t Jesus told the Twelve he was sending them out as sheep among wolves? So, with ‘the best intentions,’ they told this nameless ‘man’ to stop. Why? Because he was not one of ‘us.’ Here’s the classic ‘us and them’ spiritual conviction. If you are with us, you have it all figured out, you are 100% pure in your doctrine and duty. If you are with ‘them,’ you have some gaps, you may be active in spreading your doctrine and fulfilling your duty but there is no way you could be right, because if you were, you’d be one of us.
Have you ever seen this attitude in churches, in seminaries, in mission organizations, in your own life? The root issue is pride–let’s call it what it is. Remember what Jesus told Peter, when he spoke precisely and clearly depicted the doctrinal truth of the Messiahship of Jesus. “Peter,” you are blessed. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” You have spiritual insight because of grace, not great ability. Never forget that!
So how does Jesus respond to John, who likely felt he would be commended for calling out a suspected false teacher. Wouldn’t Jesus be ‘impressed’ with someone who ‘straightened out’ another individual and halted the spread of a different way of doing things? If you think that, you don’t know this text…
“DO NOT STOP HIM,” (emphasis mine), Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
We are not called to an acceptance of just any religious activity. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are called to “…test the spirits, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” But could we manifest more grace, allow for at least a ‘hair-breadth’ more of diversity instead of demanding compliance with our ‘self-righteous’ claims of perfection? Maybe we ought to study Mark 9:38-41 on our knees in a posture demonstrating our absolute dependence upon God for new insight.