” John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.” John 9:38-40 (ESV)
This weekend I was watching If:Gathering and one of the many things that resonated so deeply with me, was calling us to be unified in Christ. So many different denominations were present, so many stories that seemed to be so different and yet when spoken out has so many similar threads running through. There was the challenge to not let those things that had set us against one another to do so any longer. Because while those differences would still remain, we had unity in the THINGS that mattered most: salvation through Christ and a deep love for Him.
The sermon this Sunday was taken from Mark. In our church we work through a particular book of the Bible for as long as it takes us to finish it. But it fascinated me that God so orchestrated events that this particular passage would be the one I would hear after being fed and challenged so much by the conference. This series of verses pretty much reiterated so much of what had been said this weekend.
John is concerned (well all the disciples are concerned, but John speaks up) that there is someone who is ‘not one of us’ who is doing things in Jesus name. At this point in the book of John, we have seen that the disciples are often more concerned it seems with their status in the kingdom to come than with the sacrifice that Christ is heading into. They seem to not get some of his basic teaching, and yet at times with declarations like ‘you are the Christ’ seem to get it all at once. This is one of those times which seems to indicate they are preoccupied with the wrong things.
I can imagine that as John approached Jesus to let him know what they had done, he had a bit of pride in his heart. After all, he had stopped something ‘bad’ from happening. This person had the audacity to be doing healing in the name of THEIR Jesus, and they were not having any of that. After all, it seemed that this particular person was not part of the group.
Previously in this series of verses, we had been reading the story of the man who comes to Jesus to seek healing for his son that had been demon-possessed since a young age. This demon was so fierce in the boy, that the man and his wife had been fearing for their sons life every day, as the man indicates “And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid” (Mark 9:18) Interestingly enough, when this man had brought his son to the disciples for healing, “I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” It seems that the disciples had conveniently forgotten this little point.
This man, who was not ‘one of them’ was casting out demons in Jesus name. He was setting captives free. He was giving hope to people who had been unable to live without fear of what might happen to their child, to themselves. And all that the disciples could see…was that he wasn’t part of the group.
How easy is it for us to see what others are doing that ‘isn’t right’ in our estimation, instead of seeing that we are unified in Christ and to uplift each other in stepping out in faith and power. Now, this doesn’t mean that we are to condone the skewing of the Scriptures, or letting other false teaching into the church. But we are often divided across denominational lines, to a point that we can’t see that so many of us are brothers and sisters, united under the saving blood of Christ and a belief in His prominence in our lives.
My pastor described it like this. We have an entire country called Canada (or the United States), and that is our national boundary. But we also have smaller parts IN Canada that are set apart by provincial boundaries (or state boundaries). We are still Canadian in those boundaries, but we have the specific provincial identities that set us apart as well. In turn, this could be loosely applied to those united in Christ. We who profess faith in the redemption offered through the shed blood of Christ and our acknowledgement of a life steeped in sin and death without His cleansing power are united under the broad banner of Christian. But we are also part of our particular denominations and callings that are so diverse under this heading. But just because we are diverse under this headings, does not mean that we are not to be united under our main gathering point: our love and need of Christ.
Jesus points them back to that, when he states “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.” As mere humanity we do not have eyes of the heart to see the heart and motivation of what the other person is doing. Only Christ can do that. And he reminds them here: I know his heart. I know that if he does these things in my name, and they are taking place with authority, he is not to be stopped. Just because he isn’t doing things how you are used to, or how you expect, He is still making a difference in the kingdom. He is still being used of the Spirit to set people free.
And this reminds me of the verse: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt 7:3) We need to check our own heartbeat where this is concerned. Are we so consumed with seeing what others are doing ‘wrong’ that we are convinced is not of Christ, that we are not aware of what God is actually doing in this situation. Are we so obsessed with pointing out what everyone else seems to be doing wrong, when we’re sure we’re getting it right, that we fail to see where sin is tripping us up every day, especially in our pride?
There is a humility that is needed to truly take in those words, “For the one who is NOT against us is FOR us.” There are so many diverse people being used in different situations and callings for the setting free of prisoners to sin, and to the redemptive work of the Cross, but if we are so consumed in seeing what is merely in our eye sight, we will miss celebrating what He is at work in doing around us and around the world. And we will miss out on an opportunity to encourage our brothers and sisters in what they have been called uniquely to in HIS name.
May we seek to find unity in those things that matter and “…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:24-25)