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 9:49-50 NASB)
When John went to Jesus with this information, he probably thought he had done a good thing. Someone had heard Jesus teach or had learned of His teachings, believed what He said, and had acted on His words. Remember, Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater things than He had done. This particular believer had believed and had begun to cast out demons in the name of Jesus.
Just to be sure we all understand, the man wasn't "trying" to cast out demons, he was actually casting them out in the name of Jesus. To be perfectly clear, the demons understood that this man had the authority to cast them out in the name of Jesus, and, when he commanded them to leave, they left. There was nothing wrong with his theology nor with his discipleship. There was nothing wrong about his casting out of demons. In fact, he was helping people to find freedom in Christ in a way that the disciples had failed to do.
John was upset about the fact that he wasn't in "the disciple club". "He doesn't follow along with us", John complained. The problem, in John's mind, was not that he followed, but that he followed in a different group. When we read these words, they seem pretty silly, don't they? The only thing wrong was that he didn't belong to the First Disciple Church. That was it.
There's a tendency to shake our heads at John's prejudice but it is no laughing matter. John's attitude persists today and it is not only divisive, it is destructive to the body of Christ. It turns the Baptists against the Pentecostals and the Church of God against the Presbyterians. It puts one denomination in competition with another, one denomination convinced that their theology is better than another's. It sounds an awful lot like pride in disguise, doesn't it?
Friends, this should not be. There is a harvest of souls that is not gathered, partly because the body of Christ is divided into so many territorial groups. Some of my favorite ministry efforts have been with non-denominational groups in which the gospel is proclaimed with only one label, the label of Christ Jesus Himself. When we work together, we can do much more than when we divide into territorial groups.
In Heaven, there will be no denominational badges. The only thing that will matter is our relationship to Jesus. We will eat together, worship together, and live together for all eternity, and we will do it in perfect harmony. Since we will be together forever, why not practice unity now? If the body of Christ served and worked as one unit, despite worshipping in different buildings, just think what we could do! We could change the world, help the hurting, and bring a little bit of heaven to earth. We are one in the Spirit. Let's live like it!