Who is your friend? With whom can you do ministry together, with whom can you tell your deepest secrets and with whom can you find guidance? Who is our friend? And how do we know?
The way we answer these questions will have a profound influence upon our own lives and the lives of our kids.
And we are not alone. If you flip the calendar back a few thousand years, we see David in his camp. A young solider has just brought news of Saul’s death. And to sweeten the deal with the soon-to-be king, the soldier tells David, “I stood beside him [Saul] and killed him….And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my Lord” (2 Sam 1:1-16). In this time of crisis and geopolitical uncertainty, David had to quickly decide whether or not he could trust the soldier.
Fast-forward a couple of thousand years, and we will happen upon the disciples telling Jesus about how they tried to stop someone from casting out a demon “because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). So who are friends? Who should we partner with in life and ministry? How do we know that someone is really on our side? How can will tell?
And those these questions originated long before we arrived on this planet, they are still vitally important to us and our souls. Who is our friend and how do we know?
In Mark 9:38-41, Jesus answers this question. He reveals that the true friend is the one who loves Jesus and who hates sin. We are to befriend, entrust ourselves to, and embrace those who follow Christ. We are to befriend those who pursue holiness and reject those who cherish evil.
To embrace those who love holiness, we must realize that God is unified. We tend (and often very naturally so) to put people in categories. These are the Baptist; these are the Methodist; these are the baseball fans; these are the sportsmen, and these are the young married couples and on and on. Once we make these designations, we tend to befriend, reach out to, and entrust ourselves to those who are like us. Those who like classical music drift towards other classical music lovers. Baptists tend to like to partner with other Baptists. And again while there is nothing wrong with this natural human phenomena, it is not the manner by which God’s people are to select their truest companions.
Admittedly this is exactly what the disciples are doing in Mark. They are drawing lines based on familiarity and even perhaps jealousy. The disciples see a man casting out demons in verse 38 and tell the man who has done what disciples recently failed to do “to stop.” They are attempting to shut down someone who has had more success in the ministry than them because the man was not following “us.” The man was not one of the twelve. He was not fishing, eating, and working alongside the disciples. And so, they decided that the man needed to be stopped. He was not one of them he was an outsider.
We too are prone to make similar distinctions. We attack and belittle the ministries of over people and other churches because they do not sing our style of songs or because they are more casual or formal than us, or because they are reformed or free will. We create little human tribes based on our preferences ranging from our Bible translation to the color of the carpet. And when we run up against other people from other tribes who are reaching more people, witnessing more, praying more, showing hospitality more people than us to stop. We tell them they are wrong. For surely someone outside of our tribe cannot be right about their music preference.
But Jesus does not see people this way. Jesus sees only two kinds of people. He divides people not based on their musical style or dress, or secondary doctrines. He divides people based on their relationship too him. There are those that love God and those that do not. We are to embrace all those who love God even if they look, sound and do almost everything differently than you and I do. Notice Jesus words in verse 39 and 40.
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.”
All those who are being used by God to transform lives are of God. Do not miss this. Everyone who is preaching the gospel who is reaching the lost who is helping the demon possessed with the gospel is on the same team. Though we are broken into all kinds of little tribes, God is unified. And all who follow him are on the same team. All who follow, Jesus regardless of whether or not the come to our church are serving the Lord. And they are not to be discouraged. We are not supposed to try and shut them down. Rather, we should join with them. We should embrace and trust all who live out the gospel. We should look past race, worship preferences, and Bible translations and look at what really matters: Are they following Jesus? And when we run across those who share are faith, we should not silence them. We should join with them.
And even if there ministry seems insignificant or meaningless in the grand scheme of evangelical life, we should still encourage them. Our partnership is based on Christ and not on how he uses us. As Jesus says in verse 41 “For truly, I say to you whoever give you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” We are to work together side by side with all people who love the Lord.
God is unified. As the people of God, we should be unified around the gospel. We should pursue friends who are pursuing holiness.
So what did David do? Well more on that in a future blog.