Luke 9:49-51 (NIV) “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
What John observed and the action they collectively decided to follow is pretty well in line with what a lot of Christians do these days, actually what a lot of humanity does these days. You are not one of us, you are different, we’re not the same. Division. Separation. Condemnation.
But Jesus didn’t agree. I could be wrong but this is what I take from this scripture passage. Feel free to correct me if you think otherwise.
- The “someone” was not one of the 12. He was outside of their circle or group of disciples, outside of their area of influence. They didn’t know him.
- What He was doing was considered legitimate by Jesus and is in line with what the Word of God tells us, e.g. Mark 6:7 “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.”
- The greater truth is “whoever is not against you is for you”
Notice that Jesus had not specifically given this unknown male individual authority over impure spirits yet here he was, acting out what Jesus had wanted the disciples to experience, by doing what Jesus had instructed the 12 disciples to do, “casting out demons in your name”.
Observe that this is BEFORE the descent of the Holy Spirit to all believers as recorded in Acts 2:1-31
So what can we learn from the truth that Jesus gave us, “whoever is not against you is for you”?
This is what I see:
- As long as what is being done is in line with the scriptures, the external peripherals are secondary to what is actually being accomplished. One example is the local setting, it could be in a big Church, a small Church, a home or in a field, it really doesn’t matter. All the above locations are valid as long as God’s will is being achieved. We see this peripheral linkage all through the scriptures, be it circumcision or adherence to the Law.
- We focus entirely too much on conformity to recognized structure (known and favoured by us) versus diversity of functionality. The body of Christ, being the Church, is a case in point, many different parts for many different functions. The Gifts of the Spirit is another case in point, different gifts for different functions but note that all are not prophets, all are not teachers, all are not workers of miracles.
- Our personal experience or service of choice does not define what is valid for all believers. We should not look down on others who have a different experience or have chosen a different mission than ours. The key objective is becoming a child of God and growing in Christ in line with the scriptures guidance. Remember that God looks on the heart.
- How much time did the Apostle Paul spend telling the early Church to focus on what builds, not what divides? Short answer: a whole bunch. Same with Peter and the same with John.
Summary: I know there are dangers involved with operating outside of the box. The problem is many times we create the box, not God. My question is who’s box is it? If it is God’s box then obviously we stay in it. If it is our box, we need to ask, why have we placed it there? Are there guide lines provided within the scriptures, yes there are. But if you study them carefully, they are much more flexible that we have a tendency to be and they are ultimately aimed at accommodating the weak versus protecting the strong. Legalism takes many forms and far too often we have a habit of pulling out the cookie cutter with the definitive shape that we are used to or we have specifically chosen and rejecting others which differ from ours. There is a fine balance, and the use of this fine balance is laid on the strong, in support of the weak. The Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are the weights and we the strong are to determine how the weights are to be applied. I think we can do a lot better.
And just in case there is any confusion, my version of God’s box is the Apostles Creed. Likewise the Nicene Creed. I do NOT advocate going outside of the box on any statements within either of those two creeds.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!