John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you. (NLT)
Those who follow Jesus tend to gather together with those who view the Bible similarly, with those whose church gatherings are to their taste, with those who put emphasis on certain beliefs. They are tribes.
And they are quite natural: after all, God has made us all different and doesn’t seem bothered by diversity and differences. Whereas we may be threatened by those who belong to other tribes. We may think we have the right answers and others are sadly misled. We may think we are God’s special favourites whereas others are yet to discover the deep truths we have discovered.
This can lead to pride, and defensiveness, and suspicion of those who see discipleship differently. It was what afflicted the disciples in this episode. Someone seemed to be doing God’s work in God’s power but he wasn’t part of the in crowd of Jesus’ closest colleagues. They figured God could only work with people like them.
They were mistaken, just as we are mistaken when we resort to smug bigotry which assumes our particular group is superior to another. God is seemingly very happy to advance his kingdom through the work of those with whom we disagree and those from whom we keep our distance.
We may be bothered by other followers of Jesus who don’t see things our way, who don’t follow our rules, who meet and minister in ways that we find troubling. All this may be a problem for us. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem for God.