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“Now John answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.’”—Mark 9:38–41 (NKJV)
To be completely honest, my response to John in this passage would have differed greatly from Jesus’. I mean, imagine what it must have been like for John and the rest of the disciples. They had taken a huge risk in doing what they’ve been doing for several months now. Jesus singled each of them out and called them to follow Him with reckless abandon. Nets were dropped, collection tables were abandoned, ties were severed—they had taken some radical steps to devote themselves to the mission Jesus launched. As time unfolds, it becomes clear that Jesus and all He represents is beyond special, and they were a part of the few He chose to perpetuate it. Don’t you think they would have felt somewhat vindicated, privileged, and part of something exclusive? Wouldn’t you?
But then they get word that there are others, people who were not called as they were, who are going around and casting out demons by using the name of Jesus. “Wait a second, that’s not right! Jesus is my Master, I left all to follow after Him, not you! Whatever this was, it was some sort of second-class discipleship, something illegitimate that shouldn’t really count. Not only that, this would probably damage Jesus’ brand, our brand. So, let’s call them out and put a stop to it!”
Do you see how easy it is to rationalize an exclusive attitude that views those who aren’t in your immediate circle as not being worthy or useful in God’s purposes? It’s actually part of our fallen nature to think like this. To instinctively exclude instead of include. Raise your hand if this sounds familiar!
Thankfully, Jesus is there to correct John (and us) by flipping the perspective. Essentially, He tells them, “Don’t be so quick to exclude. When it comes to people being set free in my name, be willing to include those that aren’t in your immediate circle. Celebrate the fact that I’m working through more than one group. Be very glad the kingdom of God doesn’t rise or fall based on your efforts alone!”
Of course, inclusion has its limitations. Truth that’s essential to the person and work of Christ cannot be sacrificed for the sake of inclusion. The Lord wants us to partner with the other members of His body, not part ways with them. Let’s seek to include rather than exclude those beyond our immediate circle who are still serving the same Lord and Master.
Pause: What do John’s actions reveal about our natural tendency?
Practice: Put the lesson Jesus gives here into your daily practice.
Pray: Lord, help me to shed the natural instinct to exclude and give me a heart that celebrates the inclusion of others for Your name’s sake! Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.