Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “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, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
All In It Together
Sometimes, it is just one phrase or sentence within Scripture that can really trip us up, and here is one of those moments. The disciples run across someone casting out a demon in Jesus’ name, and are alarmed and tell him to stop, but Jesus corrects them by telling them “whoever is not against us is for us.” What does this mean, that as long as someone isn’t an atheist or against God, he is automatically on Jesus’ side? That doesn’t seem right, does it?
In fact, it isn’t. The other exorcist in this passage wasn’t a neutral person – after all, we know that the man was exorcising in the name of Jesus, and so was probably a follower of Jesus (although not one of the 12 disciples). So the point of Jesus’ correction is not to imply that every person who is not against Jesus is automatically on his team, but that every person on his team can do real ministry!
You see, the disciples wanted the right and privilege of ministry to be limited to themselves – they alone have the right to do amazing things in Jesus’ name, like casting out demons. This is the mentality that Jesus is correcting here, reminding the disciples that anyone who is for Jesus (a.k.a., a disciple) has the right to do ministry, not just the select disciples that follow Jesus in his journeys.
This has two different applications to us: first, some of us are like the disciples – we want the roles and responsibilities and privileges of ministry to be limited to a small group of people, usually including ourselves. We get mildly jealous and annoyed if someone has a competing ministry, or seems to be reaching out to people effectively. At our worst moments, we poke holes in their character and their qualifications to do ministry. We feel like they are competitors, encroachers. You don’t have to feel this way – anyone who does ministry is on your side, a disciple, not a competitor or an enemy. Everyone has the potential to do great ministry, even those who we sometimes look down upon.
The other application is opposite, and for a different population of people. Some of us think that we can never do ministry, that that is only reserved for those really holy people who have gone on missions, who serve on leadership, who know how to play guitar. But no, this passage reveals to us that is not just the core disciples who get to do ministry – EVERY disciple can, and is expected, to do ministry. So whoever you are, wherever you are, if you are disciple and follower of Christ, there is some place you can be serving for God’s glory.
1. Which group do you think you fall more into – 1) the disciples who think ministry should only be done by them, or 2) people who don’t think they can do ministry at all? Is there a reason why you tend to think or feel this way?
2. If you belong to the first group, is there someone whom you have felt jealousy or annoyance towards? What good things can you say about their ministry or character?
3. If you belong to the second group, what is one way in which you can serve the church or your fellowship, even in small ways?