By Curtis Shelburne: CNJ columnist
“Teacher,” John the Apostle said to Jesus, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (Mark 9:38).
The disciples were royally ticked. They were absolutely indignant, and who can blame them? They’d discovered a fellow casting out demons without a license. They’d uncovered a do-gooder doing good without a permit. Now John was reporting the infraction and evidently looking for an “Attaboy!” from the Lord for putting a stop to this unlicensed demon-removal.
One thing about John: He was absolutely ahead of his time and thoroughly modern. How could he have known that one day Christians would take morbid delight in dividing and subdividing, walling themselves off, separating one group from another behind ponderous walls built of bricks and mortar of hatred and ignorance, walls that largely obscure their view of the good being done by folks on the other side of the particular wall obscuring their own field of vision?
With that attitude, John should have become the patron saint of any number of modern folks whose toxic approach to religion motivates them to be absolutely proud of small-minded divisiveness and who expect an “Attaboy!” from Christ for doggedly clinging to incredibly stunted and spirit-withering views of the folks they barely acknowledge on the other sides of the unholy walls they’ve built.
But John didn’t get a pat on the back. Instead he got a word of correction: “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said, and (I’m paraphrasing here), here’s why:
1) No one who does good works in my name is likely to say anything bad about me in the next breath.
2) Anyone who is not against us is for us, and that’s a very good thing!
3) And, in fact, anyone who does good to my people will be sure to be rewarded.
“Don’t stop him!” Be glad for the good being done.
John learned a lesson that day, and he seems to have learned it well because it is in John’s Gospel that Jesus’ beautiful prayer, truly “the Lord’s Prayer,” a prayer that Christ’s modern disciples have largely ignored, is recorded. John recalls Jesus’ deep desire for his disciples as he prays to the Father:
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23).
What is Christ’s attitude toward any group of his people outside of our own doing good in his name?
We don’t have to wonder.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at