We’ve all seen them. Those people who by their attitude or their anger or their general weirdness seem to drive more people from God than towards him. And we’ve also seen those who seem unapologetically to be using the gospel for their own gain. What we do with these people?
“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. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,whoever is not against us is for us”
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
But what about the wierdos and the insincere?!
Both Jesus and Paul seem to agree. They declare that what matters is that the gospel is shared; that people hear the truth. Who cares if the motivation isn’t right? Who cares if we don’t really know who they are or where they come from?
I mean, I know we aren’t supposed to be judgemental and everything, but wouldn’t a little judgmentalism be recommended here?!
The case with Jesus in Mark 9 isn’t too hard to swallow, it’s just that the disciples don’t know these guys. Or is it more accurately that the disciples haven’t “approved” of them yet? Unfortunately, most of us like the control that comes with being gatekeepers. Whether we are keeping people in or out, whether in religous circles or social ones. Whether deciding who is being “good” enough to be deemed a Christian or when making value judgements on a person because of the way they raise their children. We tend to like being gatekeeprs, even if we just mean who’s in and who’s out of our approval at the moment.
So when Jesus says if they aren’t against us they are for us, we tend to understand the concept, even if we don’t like it. The truth is that sometimes we have felt like the disciples must have felt. They were “there first” and had been following Jesus longer than anybody else. They had been more committed, had “put in their time” and earned the right (or so it must have felt) to have people come to them or through them in order to be out there doing the whole “in Jesus name” thing. So we can get it from both sides. The disciples, it feels like, have a point. But obviously, so does Jesus, and his way wins out because we see the truth in it even if we don’t like it. Even if it feels like we’ve earned the right to say who’s right and who’s wrong on something. ButJesus says unless they are pointedly against us, they are for us. Unless they are intentionally misrepresenting Jesus, they are with us.
That’s hard enough to take, but what Paul says in Phillipians?! Now this guys rings of one who’s gone too far, doesn’t he? Essentially he says, “Some people teach others about Jesus with all the wrong motives, but that doesn’t really matter. At least Jesus is being preached.” He actually says some are doing it just to give him grief, to make him look bad. And yet he can say it doesn’t matter because Jesus is at least being preached.
Really Paul?! Because that’s not what I was taught in Sunday School. That doesn’t feel like I’m being very responsible for the image people are getting of God from these con-artists and hustlers.
And that’s the real issue. This sense we can tend to have that we are the gatekeepers for God’s image in the world. That somehow we are the only ones qualified to control who should and shouldn’t be talking about God. That God in some way needs us to manage his image and correct where others mislead.
It comes back to control. We like to control. Especially the things that are important to us. And it comes back to trust. Trusting that God is big enough to handle when others talk about him in a misleading or incorrect way. (Or when we talk about him in the wrong way, for that matter).
Sometimes I think being judgmental and placing value and labels on others is so innate that qualifying it with this sense that we are protecting the image of God or standing up for Jesus in the world becomes a convenient way to do what comes naturally: to keep the gate.
What do you think about these verses? In the words of Jesus, “how do you read it?”