“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.” “Do not stop him, “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.”
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. It’s often easier to unite around a common enemy than to unite around a common cause.
We live in a polarizing society. Commentators on news networks and radio talk shows advance their positions by attacking persons of the opposite viewpoint. Politicians often get elected by funding more negative ads than their opponents. The mission is to destroy the opposition.
Sometimes Christians get caught up in this spirit. They look for the chink in armor of another believer or pastor, and then go on the attack. The idea is, “If you don’t agree with me 100 percent, then you’re not really one of us.
”This exclusiveness did not begin in the twenty-first century. The same thing happened in the presence of Jesus with His disciples. They wanted to exclude others who are not in their camp, their select group, and their chosen dozen.
They brought to Jesus their complaint that a man was casting out demons and he was not part of their group. The humorous side of their indignation is that just days earlier they had been unable to drive out a demon from a boy. Now, they are complaining about someone else’s success in the very thing at which they had failed!
John spoke for the group when He used the plural pronoun “we.” They were upset because they thought they had the exclusive right to use the name of Jesus. The answer Jesus gave should be a warning to everyone in the body of Christ to be careful lest we draw the circle of relationship to Jesus smaller than He Himself draws it.
It’s evident John and the others were less concerned with end results than with means. They would rather have the man stop using the name of Jesus than see people delivered from demonic possession. And therein is a lesson for church folk. Whenever we require something to be done in a particular way, rather than being concerned with the end result we call attention to the wrong thing.
Unfortunately, there are demolition experts in the church who make it their vocation to point out what’s wrong with other believers. They are far more eager to blow up bridges than to build them.
Jesus says that if another is acting in His name, they’re not denigrating Him. His inference to us is clear: “Don’t denigrate them.” The reason? They’re with us, not against us! Jesus draws a circle big enough to take people in, not a circle small enough to rule out others who believe in Him and in the power of His name.
No one person or group owns the franchise on Jesus. He tells us, from this dialog with His disciples, that we are to be charitable with His followers who are outside our circle of association, who don’t see everything the exact same way we do.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep me from the narrowness of spirit and attitude that looks to criticize and tear down rather than encourage and build up.
Excerpted from Dr. Wood’s forthcoming book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available in September from Vital Resources.