Forbid Them Not, for He that is Not Against You is on Your Part;And of the Question Whether that Response Does Not Contradict the Other Sentence, in Which He Said,
He that is Not with Me is Against Me.
6. Mark proceeds as follows:
In those days again, the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat; and so on, down to the words,
John answered Him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Your name, and he follows not us; and we forbade him. But Jesus said, Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me; for he that is not against you is on your side. Luke relates this in similar terms, with this exception, that he does not insert the clause,
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad. For how was this man not against Him, who was not with Him, and of whom John reported that he did not unite with them in following Him, if he is against Him who is not with Him? Or if the man was against Him, how does He say to the disciples,
Forbid him not; for he that is not against you is on your side? Will any one aver that it is of consequence to observe that here He says to the disciples,
He that is not against you is on your side; whereas, in the other passage, He spoke of Himself in the terms,
He that is not with me is against me? That would make it appear, indeed, as if it were possible for one not to be with Him, although he was associated with those disciples of His who are, so to speak, His very members. Besides, how would the truth of such sayings as these stand then:
He that receives you receives me; and
Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me? Or is it possible for one not to be against Him, although he may be against His disciples? Nay; for what shall we make then of words like these:
He that despises you, despises me; and,
Inasmuch as you did it not unto the least of mine, you did it not unto me; and,
Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me, — although it was His disciples that Saul was persecuting? But, in good truth, the sense intended to be conveyed is just this, that, so far as a man is not with Him, so far is he against Him; and again, that, so far as a man is not against Him, so far is he with Him. For example, take this very case of the individual who was working miracles in the name of Christ, and yet was not in the company of Christ's disciples: so far as this man was working miracles in His name, so far was he with them, and so far he was not against them. But, inasmuch as they had prohibited the man from doing a thing in which, so far forth, he was really with them, the Lord said to them,
Forbid him not. For what they ought to have forbidden was what was outside their fellowship, so that they might bring him over to the unity of the Church, and not a thing like this, in which he was at one with them, that is to say, so far as he commended the name of their Master and Lord in the casting out of devils. And this is the principle on which the Catholic Church acts, not condemning common sacraments among heretics; for in these they are with us, and they are not against us. But she condemns and forbids division and separation, or any sentiment adverse to peace and truth. For therein they are against us, just because they are not with us in that, and because, not gathering with us, they are consequently scattering.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602405.htm>.