I have been involved in Christian service since I was in high school (almost 40 years now). One of the ugliest attitudes I have witnessed, and even participated in, is jealousy between groups of Christians.
It is part of our fallen, sinful human nature to be proud of who we are and critical of others. In our effort to be true to Christ, we often become critical of others who do not follow Him the way we do.
The first 12 disciples displayed this same tendency to become a closed group. They challenged the ‘credentials’ of an outsider. But Jesus rebuked their attempt to be exclusive.
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.(Mark 9:38-40).
John was jealous for the exclusiveness, the honor, and the uniqueness of the apostolic circle to which he belonged. How dare anyone who was not of their circle use the name of Jesus to exorcise demons?
This outsider was apparently successful at what he was doing. Earlier in this chapter (9:17-18), the disciples were unable to cast out a demon. But they worked against someone who in the name of Jesus was victorious over the demonic world.
Perhaps John hoped to earn a word of praise from Jesus for his strict standards. Twice he said, ‘he followeth not us.’ John did not say, ‘We stopped him because he does not follow You.’ He said, ‘We stopped him because he does not follow us.’
The “we” vs. “them” attitude is a common fault among Christians. Labels are attached to denominations, theological differences, and ministerial styles that put people outside the circle of true faith. I’m not talking about issues that are clearly explained in the Bible. We are definitely to separate from those who teach contrary to the Scriptures. But on issues where believers differ, it is easy for each of us to believe we are always in the right and are responsible to suppress others.
Jesus’ counsel is interesting. His simple words are ‘Forbid him not.’ The Lord’s word is that we should leave all such people to Him. This does not mean that we are to join them or that we are to encourage them to join us. This is not a call to ecumenicism. This is a call to allow others to follow Christ and do His work without any interference from us. In the words of Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen, “Let it go!”
We follow the same Christ.
John admits that the miracles done were performed ‘in thy name.’ Whoever these followers were, they recognized the power of Jesus and used His name for good. Though many differences may have existed between the two groups, the name of Jesus was common.
Having the same Lord covers a multitude of differences. ‘Because you belong to Christ’ is the cord that should bind all true believers together. These words would deliver us from party spirit, petty bickering and jealousy in Christian service.
We are on the same Team.
Jesus said, ‘He who is not against us is for us.’ By saying this, Jesus rebuked John’s exclusive spirit.
Today, Jesus has many ‘on his team’ that may not be part of your group. Some have different styles of worship, follow different preferences, and use different methods. But they focus on telling people that God’s kingdom has come in Jesus Christ.
We must not confuse loyalty to Christ with loyalty to our approach and method. We must not be jealous of others whose methods prove more effective. Our common goal to share the gospel and serve others should lift us above rivalry, jealousy, petty loyalties, and bickering.
Enjoy and appreciate the variety of people who follow the Lord – our brothers and sisters in faith. Encourage someone from another church or ministry.