Christ The Teacher: He Who Is Not Against Us Is On Our Side

This incident in Mark’s Gospel introduces us to a tricky question: what to do when outsiders perform miracles of exorcism in Jesus’s name, and without Jesus’s permission ?

The disciples’ first reaction is: Forbid them!

The situation probably arose in the early Christian communities because sorcery was fairly common in the ancient world.

And sorcerers didn’t care from where their power came from, provided they could profit from it. The Acts of the Apostles narrates incidents of this kind, and shows the apostles as being quite intolerant of non-Christians performing exorcisms in the Lord’s name. Or even trying to.

Mark’s Gospel however presents Jesus as being much more tolerant. “No one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak ill of me. Anyone who is not against us, is on our side.”

So, is there a right answer to the question ? On the one hand, we have the ‘inclusive attitude’ of Jesus, who praises and accepts confessions of faith even from non-Jews and wrong-doers: the Roman centurion, the Syro-phoenician woman, the good thief and Zachaeus are examples of such. In this Jesus is unique. The Lord looks into the heart of each one, and even when faith is inadequate, he works his healing touch.

On the other, the early Church insisted that miracles, whether of healing or of exorcism, were signs of the patient’s faith and openness to Christ. Their best expression is within a community of faith. They are not meant to be spectacular.

One who did not believe in Christ and his power to forgive and reconcile should be discouraged from attempting to imitate his actions for mere external effect, or even worse, for personal profit.

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