There’s an interesting story in the Gospel of Mark that critiques our tendency to form little groups or cliques based on our particular understanding of God. Here’s what happened:
“Teacher,” said John, “We saw someone 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. “For 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. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Mark 9:38-41).
The Inner Circle
John thought that because they were part of Jesus’ inner circle, they were special. They should be the only ones who were allowed to do awesome things in the name of Jesus. You can sense a sort of pride in John—they are part of a special group, and it’s not okay for someone else to have the same sort of favor.
Whoever is Not Against Us is For Us
Jesus confronts this attitude directly. Even though the unnamed individual isn’t part of their group, Jesus says what they are doing is good. Whoever is not against us is for us. You didn’t need to be part of some select group in order to follow Jesus or do good in Jesus’ name.
Engage with Humility
A lot of times in Christianity, it’s easy to think we have the corner on the truth. It can be easy to think our group is the one who has finally “got it,” and other groups are misguided or harmful. If Jesus were walking around today, I think he would tell us to knock all that off. We are all limited in our ability to understand God. We are all wrong about some things. Because of that, it’s important to engage with humility, and celebrate the work that other people are doing (even if it looks different than what we do).
Jesus’ circle might be a lot wider than we think.