A question that I've asked a few people, but have never truly understood is this: In Mark 9:38-41, there is a situation where the disciples tell a man who is not one of Jesus' followers to stop driving out demons in his name, and Jesus tells them, "Do not stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us." Then in Luke 11:23, Jesus teaches, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." How do these two situations harmonize? -- Doug Smith (Cleveland)

Some commentators say that the situation in Mark 9 was less intense, less developed, less "polarized" than in Luke 11. In other words, the religious tensions between Jesus' movement and outsiders increased dramatically as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem in the spring of 30 AD.

One way to harmonize the passage is by understanding Jesus to be saying, in effect, that the man in Mark 9 is in fact with Jesus and gathering with him. What do you think about that possibility?

Bottom line, Jesus insists that we make a choice. These two passages indicate clearly that there is no neutral place: when it comes to our commitment, there are only two possibilities. That is how I think the passages mesh together.

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