By guest writer, Ellen Ceely
“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. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.’” - Mark 9:38-41
John’s actions speak to my heart. He’s so excited to be with Jesus, to be following him and not only witnessing but participating in amazing events every day. Having been raised to be a fisherman, John’s life went from being a “nobody” involved in predictable everyday events to being a “somebody” involved in the most miraculous events Israel had witnessed in over 400 years. Not only did he want to do things right, but he was finally in! John was no longer a smelly fisherman trying to scrape a back-breaking living out of the sea, he was now a chosen apostle of the most notorious religious leader of the time!
So what does John do? As soon as he sees someone who’s not a disciple casting out demons in the name of Jesus, he tells them to stop, “because he was not following us” (v. 38). This person wasn’t part of the “club” that followed Christ, so in John’s mind, they shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the power of the Gospel. They might get it wrong. How are they to fully understand if they weren’t handpicked by Jesus?
But Jesus quickly rebukes his disciple. Whether John’s actions came from an innocent ignorance that made him afraid they weren’t correctly following the rules or from a place of pride and arrogance that anyone else would have the same ability to cast out demons in the name of Jesus without being a disciple, we’ll never know. But Jesus rapidly reminds him that it doesn’t matter; whoever is not against us is for us. In other words, they are part of the “club.” Jesus’s name is not for an elite club of super-followers, but for all who believe. His grace and freedom and salvation from oppression and sin are not exclusively to be doled out by only those who get everything “right,” but by all who believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
It can be easy to view Christians of other denominations or political viewpoints as being “outside” or “other” than true followers of Christ. You’re likely thinking about a “them” right now. Take some time to meditate on these verses and ask God to humble and soften your heart toward your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Ask him to help you seek unity to fight for Jesus instead of against one another. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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