There is often a strand of exclusivity among people of faith, a tendency to separate themselves from those who they identify as not sufficiently being a member of the chosen group. It may be because the person doesn’t go to the right church. Or it could be because the person holds different views on issue the person judging views to be important. Or that the person speaks or acts in a way the person making the judgment believes people of faith should speak or act.
In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus reacts strongly against such an attitude. John complains to Jesus that the disciples saw someone driving out demons in Jesus’ name. John explains that the disciples tried to stop the person because “he does not follow us.” Jesus admonishes him for trying to prevent the person; if the person is performing “a mighty deed in [his] name,” the person can not “at the same time speak ill of [him].” Thus, says Jesus, “whoever is not against us is for us.”
Jesus cuts through our tendency toward exclusivity with a simple test. Are people doing good deeds in his name? If they are, it doesn’t matter whether they “follow” the disciples.
We would do well to apply the same sort of test in our evaluation of others. Are they being as Christ in the world? Are they loving God and loving one another? Are they feeing the poor, ministering to the sick, visiting those imprisoned? Are they being salt and light?
Today’s Gospel suggests that it is enough for Jesus if the answers to such questions is yes. And that means it ought to be good enough for us.