But while everyone was marveling at all that he was doing, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.
An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”
John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:43–50)
John tried to keep someone who was not a disciple of Jesus from casting out demons in Jesus name. Jesus told John that such a person shouldn’t be hindered, since “he who is not against you is for you.” And yet elsewhere, Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23). How do we reconcile the two concepts?
When Jesus commented that “whoever is not with me is against me,” he was speaking about the Pharisees and their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah. In his rebuke to John, Jesus was pointing out that God works through whom he will, not just through those who happen to belong to the “in” group. A person cannot speak positively of Jesus and be against him at the same time. Just because he wasn’t following Jesus and the disciples around Palestine didn’t mean he wasn’t a believer. Besides, getting rid of demons is always a good thing. Who in their right mind would argue against that or want to stop it? John’s behavior in trying to stop the man simply didn’t make sense.
The practice of excluding others who minister in the name of Jesus because they are not “one of us” is wrong. Jesus is warning us against excluding those who name the name of Jesus but don’t happen to belong to our particular group.