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Posts Tagged ‘inclusiveness’

Series: Be at peace with one another!

We are looking again today at the larger passage of Mark 9:33-50, focusing in on relationship problems that can happen among followers of Jesus in the church. As we saw last week, the point of this whole passage is found at the very end in v. 50 – “Be at peace with one another.” Jesus wants his people to live in harmony with one another.

You have your handout again today, so you can see the bigger picture of the series we’re in. Last week we talked about arguing over who’s the greatest. And Jesus taught us not to seek after recognition and status. Rather we are to lower ourselves below even those with no status, so that we can serve them. We learned that this is what true greatness means in the kingdom of God.

Today we look at not rejecting disciples who are not from your group. Our text is Mark 9:38-41. This is the story of –

The unfamiliar exorcist

v. 38 – “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.’”

So the situation here is that a person, who was not a part of the twelve, is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. He is doing real ministry because the demons are being cast out, and people are being set free.

That someone else was casting out demons is not that exceptional, for instance there were Jewish exorcists who were sometimes successful in casting out demons (Matthew 12:27). The focus here is that he was doing this in Jesus’ name, that is, he has taken it on himself to act on behalf of Jesus or as Jesus’ representative. [This story is different than Acts 19:13-17. This person is a real follower of Jesus.]

Now Jesus had a number of disciples beyond just the 12. There are the 72 that are sent out in Luke 10 and we learn about a number of other disciples in the Gospel of John. And this fellow is one of these, although maybe Jesus himself had not met him. Perhaps he is a convert of one of these other disciples of Jesus.

From the point of view of the 12, however, this man, whoever he was, was different than they were. He was not, as they said, “following us.” He was not a part of their group. So they tried to stop him.

(Were the disciples envious since some had just publicly failed to cast out a demon Mark 9:14-29)? (Also, see Numbers 11:26-30 for a similar story.)

v. 39 – “But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him . . ..’” He has a very different take on this situation. And he gives two reasons why the man should not be stopped.

Reason #1. v. 39 – “. . . for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.’” Here we see a bit more of why the 12 are trying to stop this man. They thought that he had a crowd from casting out demons, he might end up saying something bad about Jesus.

There is a real “name focus” in this passage, with several instances of the phrase “in Jesus’ name” being used (v. 37 just before, vs. 38, 39, 41). Here the disciples are concerned for Jesus’ name, as in his reputation. They don’t want this man, who might seem like a loose cannon to go off and slander Jesus.

Jesus’ response to this is simple. No one who is doing a mighty work such as casting out a demon in his name, is going then to speak evil of him. How can you see how powerful Jesus is and the freedom he brings – right in front of you, and then turn right around and say something bad about him? This is no guarantee of the future for this man, but it would be hard, Jesus is saying to put these two things together at the same time – seeing one thing and saying another.

Reason #2. Next, Jesus lays down an amazingly inclusive principle for this kind of situation. v. 40 – “For the one who is not against us is for us.”

Usually people think like this – You are either with us or against us. And if you’re not on my side you’re on the wrong side and an opponent. It is true that Jesus does have a saying like this. In Matthew 12:30 he says, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” This has to do with being with or against Jesus. And you do have to choose here.

But when it comes to relationships between disciples, or different groups of disciples – things are different. There’s a different rule.

As long as the person is “not against” you, you should see them as “for” you. That is, on the same side. As long as they are not opposing you, undermining you, or persecuting you – accept them as fellow disciples.

With Jesus there is a clear, black and white standard. But with fellow disciples the standard is much more open and inclusive.

In this particular case, Jesus is saying, even though this man was different from them, not a part of their group, he is not opposing them. In fact, he is “for” them because he is doing the work of the kingdom – casting out demons. He is not the competition, he is an assistant. A fellow worker for the kingdom. Therefore they should not try to shut him down and get him to quit.

A final thought. v. 41 – “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” [Note: The Greek after “to drink” is a bit convoluted. It says literally, “in the name because you are Christ’s.” I am following the NIV that translates “in the name” as a variant of “in my name.” The rest is ESV as usual.]

Jesus is helping them put things in perspective here. The phrase, “truly I say to you” means this is really important, so listen up. If a small act of help, like giving them water because they are working for Jesus is rewarded, then surely what this man is doing, casting out demons will be rewarded too. He too is giving them assistance in the work of the kingdom. They are on the same team.

How do we do reject other disciples?

There are many differences between various groups of Christians today; a bewildering variety.

  • As groups we have different histories coming from different places and with different stories.
  • We have different human traditions about how we worship, how we organize our communities, how we do mission, and so forth.
  • We have different beliefs on any number of issues. We don’t agree on all things. And we even emphasize different things where we agree.

How then do we look at these other Christians groups? Those who are not “following us”? Christians who are different than us? We are from the Mennonite tradition here. But what do we think of the Baptists, the Methodists, the Lutherans, the Catholics the Eastern Orthodox?

Now, I’m not talking about false teachers. I’m talking about people who are real disciples of Jesus who are doing real ministry in his name.

  • Do we think we are the only real Christians? There are still Christians who think their group will be the only one to make it.
  • Do we put these other disciples down? You know, if they only knew more and were more committed, they would be just like us!
  • Do we dismiss their ministries? Ridicule them? Rejoice in their failures? Hope they will stop?

This is unnecessary exclusiveness. We are all, after all, the people of Jesus. And although concerning him you are either for him or against him, that’s not how it works when it comes to our particular Christian groups.

I’m not saying that these differences aren’t important. They can be really important! This is not a call to look down on having strong beliefs. It’s just that we need to realize our differences are not as important as our common connection in Jesus.

Let’s listen to –

Jesus’ word to us

Don’t reject disciples who aren’t from your group. Don’t try to keep them from ministering in Jesus’ name. Rather, “be at peace with one another” – Mark 9:50.

Just as in the episode before this, we were taught to receive or welcome the lowly one who has no status, so here we are to welcome disciples from other groups who are doing ministry in Jesus’ name.

We’re on the same team! And they are helping out in the larger task finishing Jesus commission to us, which is too big for any one group by itself.

Imagine if the church had followed this teaching of Jesus through the centuries, so that we lived in peace with one another – instead of fighting, persecuting and killing each other. What if we didn’t try to dominate each other so that everyone has to believe and live like we do? What if we had listened to Jesus. What a witness it could have been.

But it’s never too late to start. May the Lord help us in this.

William Higgins

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