Today’s reading is Mark 9:38-41:
John said to him, “Teacher we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.”
As an aspiring theologian I’ve realized the more I learn and the more learned people I am around, topics that divide the church are more frequently brought up. It seems that people become so educated in their doctrine, that anyone who does not agree with them is an enemy. It is people like those to whom Jesus is speaking when he says, “For the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). Therefore as members of the church we must respect anyone who brings people to Christ, despite our differences.
I am not advocating for a unity of the church in a literal sense, but rather for a mutual respect and appreciation. For I believe this is the first step to achieving perfect unity, and unity is the power in which the grace of God is best administered to the world. As long as someone believes in the core tenets of Christianity and their works are casting out demons in Jesus’s name, then one should not view them as enemies. Southern Conservatives and Northern Liberals, Catholics and Protestants, Calvinists and Armenians, or whatever else is causing one part of the church to look at another part with contempt must stop. If we are like John and the disciples and we try to stop everyone who does good for the church, because their methods are different than ours, then we are drastically slowing the works of the Holy Spirit.
“No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me” (Mark 9:39). If someone is doing mighty works in the name of Jesus then they must be doing it through the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is working through this person, then Jesus must be with them also, because of the Holy Triune. Jesus is using this chain of reasoning to show that where the Holy Spirit works so does He. The disciples were making the mistake of separating the Trinity. Just like it is a mistake to split the three godheads, it is a mistake to split the church.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he offered his view on America in the 1960’s interestingly apply to the church today: “She has allowed her technology to out-distance her theology. She has allowed her mentality to outrun her morality” (150 Preacher King). Sadly, we have allowed the globalization of the world to turn Christianity into a clique-ish religion. Even though we are more connected to Christians around the world, it seems that we are further apart. We become followers of our denomination, our church, or our theology instead of being followers of Christ.
In the forthcoming verses in Mark, Jesus makes it clear that he wants a child-like faith: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15). What we can take from this is that Jesus is interested in our geology and not our theology. He wants us to run to him and be near him like children, instead of studying him with a telescope from a distance. The joy of being close to Jesus is found in a personal experience with Him.
Jesus concluded this section by speaking of sharing a cup of water to show the importance of respect and unity within the church. The small act of sharing a cup of water highlights the importance of commensality and community in the church. When we can learn to judge people not on their doctrine, not on their style of worship, but on their ability to perform works through the Holy Spirit then we can make sure that everyone can experience their reward from Christ and we can work towards a unity in the church. Therefore I pray that we can all learn to humble ourselves before God and man. So that we may be willing to rejoice when people are preforming mighty works in the name Jesus all over the world.
Julian Nunally ’17 lives in Lowell House.