John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” Luke 9.49-50
I am swamped with getting my dissertation done, so this week’s meditation is a short one (though I think one with great significance for the church). I think most of the time Christians have the opposite mindset: if you’re not for me, then you’re against me. If your doctrine, practice, and church government don’t look exactly like mine, then we are in some sense adversaries. Other times, churches work not to have this mindset and move to a position of neutrality, where we have our thing, and you have your thing and we just agree to coexist. The ecumenical movement seems to be able to get churches this far.
But this is not what Jesus was saying here. Think about what is going on here. Jesus is still training the Twelve, he hasn’t even gone to the cross yet (so Carman and Mel Gibson would see this as before Satan was defeated), and yet someone outside Jesus’ inner circle is already waging successful spiritual warfare in Jesus’ name. Where does this fit in our standard narrative? Who was this guy? No clues are given, but Jesus affirms the man’s ministry and tells the Twelve not to hinder him: he who is not against us is for us.
I don’t know where you are in terms of the life of the church, but this passage can be good to meditate on from a couple of angles. It might do you good to think about this from the perspective of the Twelve. Maybe the Spirit will show you ways you can move from an adversarial position with regard to the ministry of others, to one of at least neutrality (do not stop him), or better one of encouragement and support (he is for us).
You might also find the Spirit opening your eyes to people and ministries who are bringing the ministry of Jesus to you from unexpected places and/or in unexpected ways. The recipients of this guy’s ministry might have wondered what his connection to Jesus was, well, at least until the demons were cast out. Then they probably were less concerned about his credentials. The Spirit may nudge you about not rejecting ministry that is really the Spirit targeting you with teaching or solicitude unlooked for. Receive what the Spirit gives you.