‘To pray or condemn?’

Mark 9:40
Whoever is not against us, is for us.

            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s interesting times we’re living in. Listening to the TV or radio news, so many stories about Australia and the World, so many things are happening. We hear about the plans of the political parties to make life better, to keep our country and its citizens safe and strong. About how an event across the other side of the world influences us here on the western plains, 9/11, black lives matter, Wuhan and COVID. There’s so many people going so many ways out in the world, influencing others in so many ways; and here we are, in our homes, in our small congregations. Here we are in the presence of God who tells us, whoever is not against us, is for us.

            And today there are many who are not against us, working in different ways. Of course there are those in other churches; the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, for instance, are a lot more influential in the political arena. There are school teachers, sporting coaches, council workers, nurses, farmers, secretaries, all sorts of people just going about their lives in these hard times. They are not against us, and though they might not always be with us, still we benefit. And all those years ago, before He rose from the dead, there were people defeating demons in the name of Jesus.

            These people were not with Jesus, not following after as were the twelve and many other disciples. Who knows why they did not come to Him, perhaps they were just pragmatic workers and found that demons were much more scared of Jesus’ name than theirs, perhaps they were desperate to help those near them and found Christ’s name a more powerful cure; but the only thing we know of them is they were not with Jesus, yet still used His name to do His work. And a great work that is. Jesus in Mark’s account it a strong silent type, a bit gruff too, yet He gets the job done. And that job has been casting out demons, dissolving disease, and annihilating sin, bringing thousands of loaves from 5 and fulfilling all God’s Word. Jesus has come to conquer the ultimate enemies of all Creation! And now these outsiders are also doing great things in His name. Don’t stop them, even if they’re not with us.

            If people outside our church encourage others to live a good, loving life; why would we tell them to stop? If people outside our Lutheran tradition are pointing others to Jesus; why rebuke them in that? If even Muslims, Atheists, and them New Age spiritualists teach a truth; why would we block our ears to it? Because if they teach something that is true, they’re not soon going to reject it. If these ancient exorcists use Christ’s name, they can’t really say anything bad about Him can they? Imagine, “I heal with the name of Jesus Christ, also don’t listen to Jesus Christ, he’s bad.” Whoever is not against us is for us. And it’s not just in the big things. Jesus says, even if they do something as small as give you a cup of water in Christ’s name, they will not loose their reward. However, just because they are for us, doesn’t mean they are with us.

            We all know good people, people who love and care, people who have helped us, people who for whatever reason are not with us, and perhaps not even with Jesus. People who might do some really good things, but we know that they do not follow the Good Shepherd. People who teach what is true, but do not know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. People who create beauty, but do not live in the beauty of life in the Bride of Christ. How do you treat these people? Do we leave Jesus to join with them? No, yet neither do we reject the good they do. They are not with us, and yet by God’s grace they can be.

So, pray for them and for us, especially in these stress-filled times, that we all might be with Jesus, alongside the Holy Spirit, the Father looking on us all in grace. Don’t condemn them for their faults, rather remember their help and pray for them. As James writes the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective; this is why we pray together here every Sunday, the prayer of the Church for the government, the world, and all those in need. That it is not just you praying for that person, but Christians across the world even though they might not know them personally. Even Moses all those years ago wished to see all God’s people prophesying, speaking His Word to those around. That all of us might do God’s Work, to guide each other away from sin and toward Jesus, so that we all live together in Him, forgiven and saved from death (James 5:13-20). Whoever is not against us is for us, yes, yet we desire all people to be saved. We pray that all sin be cut out and consumed by that fire; that those who are not against us do not loose their reward; that none of the littles ones stumble and wander away. But rather that all people be salted, be healed, and enter the Everlasting Kingdom of God, Everlasting Life together with Jesus. That we be one in Christ.

And so the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now into life Everlasting together in God’s Kingdom. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.