There are two statements in the Bible, viz., "He that is not with me is against me," and "He that is not against us is on our part," that have always seemed to me rather contradictory; but on studying them more carefully I was able to understand them better, and it may possibly help some one else if I give the result of my studies, or still better, may encourage them to make their own.

To get at the true meaning of a text, it is important to consider the context, to see how the text affects the general sense of the teaching, and how the general sense affects it. In Mark ix Jesus is dealing with the dispute among his disciples as to who should be greatest, and takes a little child as an illustration of the right mental attitude of those seeking the kingdom of heaven. Now an ordinary healthy child delights in learning anything practical; it is imitative, and if left to itself will try to do something like that which the grown-up people about it are doing,—it likes to help in the work. Doubtless the man who was casting out devils was doing so in this spirit. He had seen Jesus casting out devils and had heard his teaching, and with childlike eagerness and faith had thought, "Why should not I also try to do good in the same way?" Then he had tried, and had succeeded. The disciples, however, saw it differently. They were more ready to condemn him, because he did not do exactly what they considered right. Possibly a little jealousy may have crept in here also; especially if he was able to cast out devils more successfully than they were—so they "forbad him."

Jesus, on the other hand, recognizing that the man was working in the right spirit, said: "Forbid him not:... he that is not against us is on our part." Evidently he was referring to the rightness of the motive that was behind the action,—"in my name" (this is the point); and he went on to show that the slightest thing done in that spirit had its reward, but that the opposite condition of mind, namely, jealousy, hatred, etc., involved suffering until here or hereafter it was corrected—for corrected it must be, at whatever cost to personal sense or treasured traditions, before harmony could be attained.

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February 24, 1912

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