In Mark 9.38 we read the disciples had a problem - a man was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. How horrible! Well, that was really not the problem. The problem was that this man who was actively serving Jesus, trusting that the power of Jesus could confront the powers of darkness and win - this man was not one of us. That was the problem.
So they take their problem to Jesus and Jesus uses it as an opportunity to explain that they do not need to be one of us, rather they need to be one with HIM.
Jesus explains that concept in verses 39-49 - to be one with Jesus in ministry is to be for Jesus (39-41); it is to not lead others into sin (42); it is to put to death sin in our lives (43-48); and it is to be salty - that is to be actively serving the Lord even though it will come at a cost (49-50). That is Christian ministry.
But there is a temptation and that is to think that we are the only ones doing true, real, vital ministry in the name of Jesus. There is a danger in how we speak about other Christians in becoming to narrow, to critical and to judgmental. We think we stand alone and if we die, truth dies. Jesus' response is do not stop him - there is no middle road. He is either for me or against me.
A good lesson in times when Christianity may seem to be sliding and doctrinal precision is a thing of the past. We are not the only ones serving the Lord. There will be diversity in the way people serve God and there will be true disciples of Jesus who are for Him who are honoring His Name.
How do we protect ourselves against the battle that wages in the disciples heart? There may be lots of ways but I think a beginning point is listen. We speak far too much and too freely. We love to hear our own voices as we articulate truth. But have we listened - understood - searched Scripture - been gracious and kind? Sure, this man may not have been one of the 12 but he was confronting the forces of Jesus in His Name.
Mark 9. 50 concludes with this instruction from Jesus: Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another. Amen. We aim for salt but isolate ourselves because they are not one of us. Have you listened? Have you thought - they may be doing a work uniquely given them by God that we have not been gifted to do? After all, this man was casting out demons and the disciples a few verses before could not cast the demon out of the boy.
If we are to be at peace, humbly listen and graciously pray for your brothers and sisters. And if everyone in the church practiced "peace", much infighting would cease and active Christian service would begin. Amen?