Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
Last Saturday, a huge cross country race was held in Carmel. The runner that had taken the lead in the girls’ race collapsed just 50-yards shy of the finish line. Being that it was a warm morning with temperatures hovering near 90 and the humidity setting in, the runner was probably experiencing symptoms of dehydration.
A boy from an opposing team, who had situated himself near the finish line to cheer for his teammates, witnessed the runner crumpling to the ground. Instinctively, he grabbed a nearby water bottle and ran it over to the girl. While she drank the water, he even ran off to get another bottle for her.
Somebody from an opposing team was first to respond. It’s one of those examples of good sportsmanship that we like to encourage in our young people.
It might be a tad trite, but I think Jesus encourages His followers to have good “sportsmanship” in Mark Chapter 9.
The context for Mark 9:41 is Jesus’s response to his disciples’ concern that others outside their inner circle had been casting out demons in Christ’s name. They had even tried to prevent these other folks from doing this. Jesus, on the other hand, says that those who do good in his name can’t speak evil of Him after the fact. Furthermore, the disciples will want to be open to those who want to provide for them in their suffering or time of need.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in preserving or growing our own inner circle of believers, congregation or religion, that we thoughtlessly critique others' practices and traditions. We may even be guilty of asserting our assumptions and judgments on entire groups of people, holding the good work they do with suspicion.
Competition and comparison can sneak up on us when we think about preserving our small circles or limit our imagination that God is working in and through anyone, anywhere at any time.
The boy that day heeded an inner call to care for another human being. He didn’t care that she was on another team. The girl didn’t have time to decide whether to receive the gesture. She was desperately thirsty and drank.
Who are people outside your inner circle needing care? When have you received Christ-like care or invitation from a stranger with whom you’d have ordinarily avoided? What is another faith or Christian denomination that you’ve held suspect or resisted friendships with others associated with those groups?
It might be time to widen your circle.