Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 195. A Unifying Principle
Mk 9:39-41 “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. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
As we previously contemplated the situation that arose and caused the disciples concern, we noted our tendency to be isolationist when we have entered into blessing. This is what this is all about, isn’t it? We’ve come into relationship with Jesus, we’ve had our lives transformed, and for some of us that transformation has really been dramatic, and therein lies the danger – we look down on those who have not had the same experience, those who might (in our eyes at least) have a lesser faith, who cannot talk so clearly about the dramatic change of being born again.
Now intriguingly, Jesus does not categorise the man who had been delivering people and does not vindicate his position, but simply lays down a principle that unifies all who do good in Jesus’ name. This may not be the ultimate answer about the man’s state (or whether some of our friends are genuinely saved or have only had a limited experience) but it does help bring us to rest and leave it in God’s hands.
Look, says Jesus by implication, we have enough trouble with those who are openly against us and criticise us. If there is anyone who does good in my name, or even go as far as performing miracles in my name, you can be sure that having done that one minute, the next minute they are not going to be turning round and criticising us. If they are not against us – and they won’t be if they use my name – then they will be for us, and surely that is a plus!
Look, he goes on, if anyone does good towards you knowing you are my disciples, even just giving you a drink of water, knowing you are mine, my Father will reward and bless them for it so, (by implication) don’t be all stressed out by those who don’t seem to be completely one with us. If they are on our side, on the side of my Father, even if they have not yet had the same experiences as you, don’t get stressed about them!
There is within all this an important principle. When we encounter other people who appear to have some level of belief, do we look for things that will unify us with them or do we find negatives that distinguish us from them or them from us, things that put a divide between us. Not all believers will have had exactly the same experience as you. That is God’s grace, but they may still be believers, even if young ones or ones with limited experience. Don’t reject them!