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. -Mark 9:38-41
This arresting passage in Mark put two questions before me this morning:
- As a Christian leader, do I want to see followers of Christ or followers of me?
- What radical God-honoring thing can I do today in my relatively quiet, small town of Bellingham, WA?
[Regarding Question #1] I know I don’t want to be like John. Clearly he was not understanding Jesus’ earlier words about being last of all and servant of all (Cf., 9:35). John is thinking so highly of himself and the others among the Twelve that he admits they tried to stop another follower of Christ from doing good works. Why? Because the person was not following them. The person wasn’t in the club. The person wasn’t in the inner circle. The person wasn’t one of the elites. So John and the others sought to shut him down. Pride is so wicked that it can move us to literally try to stop people from doing good in the name of Christ. But Jesus gives a gracious rebuke: “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” (vv. 39-40).
I want to be magnanimous when it comes to Christian ministry. After all, I want to see first and foremost followers of Christ, not followers of me or Immanuel Bible Church. Isn’t this at least in part what the Apostle Paul was driving at in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13?
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Let Christ be all and in all!
[Regarding Question #2] There is much talk in evangelicalism today about being “radical” for Christ. What greatly encourages me about our Lord’s words in this text is that something as seemingly ordinary as giving a cup of water to a fellow believer is God-honoring. “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” (v. 41). So, being radical for Jesus might mean selling everything you have and moving to Papua New Guinea to evangelize the lost. But it might also mean refreshing a thirsty saint here at home with a simple cup of cold water. It’s greatly encouraging to know that opportunities abound to honor Christ in the less sensational moments of today.