23 February 2011

Mark 9:38-40

"Whoever is not against us is for us." (v. 40)


When we read these verses from Mark's Gospel - and indeed the Gospel as a whole - it's worth keeping in mind that the writer is addressing not only individual readers such as you and me, but also a community of believers. He wants to tell the story of Jesus not only for the record but also in response to the questions and needs of those for whom he is writing.

The disciple John comes running to Jesus like a kid telling tales: "Sir, sir, you'll never guess what I've seen sir. A man casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him sir, honest, because he's not one of us." You can almost see John tugging Jesus by the sleeve, urging him to come and see what he's talking about. But, for Jesus, the Christian life involves recognising variety and opportunity, often in unexpected places. Who are we to say how God's work will be done? "Don't stress about it," Jesus might have said. "Don't waste your breath trying to stop the exorcist."

Jesus' response - "Whoever is not against us is for us" - is a gentle call to generous acceptance, not only on the part of Christian individuals but also on the part of church congregations, denominations and movements. John - for all his eagerness - represents groups whose instinct is to exclude those who don't conform to local patterns and expectations. He stands for those church communities which, for all their talk of being 'an open door church' and 'a space for all', really believe that there is only one way of doing things.

To Ponder

What in this story relates to your own experience of community?

Have you ever been surprised by God moving 'in a mysterious way'? What happened and what can you learn from it?

How can we be more open in our daily lives to meeting Christ in other people?

Bible notes author

Laurence Wareing

Laurence Wareing is a Methodist local preacher and works as a freelance writer and media producer. He was editor of the Methodist publication Momentum from 2005 until 2010 and currently edits the website Singing the Faith Plus.