In today’s readings (see Track 2, here), we see the importance of welcoming allies who may not be formally aligned with us, but whose spirit is with us and with the Lord, and who are doing the Lord’s work despite the lack of earthly, formal alignment.
In the reading from Numbers, we see Joshua asking Moses to shun men named Eldad and Medad because they dared “prophesy” even without having been part of a formal gathering at which the spirit of prophecy was shared with 70 elders. And in the Gospel, we see the Disciples asking Jesus to rebuke a man for casting demons out in His name, without explicit authority.
But Moses and Jesus both sided with the men who were doing good, in the Lord’s name, and clearly for God’s purposes rather than against them.
“Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.'”
This reminds me of one of my favorite passages in the closing book of the C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, The Last Battle. In it, a “Calormene” soldier who swore by the name not of Narnia’s lion-king Aslan but of the only deity he knew (the awful Tash), but whose actions in pursuit of his pledge were noble and pure, and honorable and honest — indeed, he worked hard to undo the “lies and trickery” of fellow Calormenes against the Narnians — feared when he met Aslan that Aslan would punish him for swearing by Tash.
Instead, Aslan said that no oath taken in good faith, for good reason, and then upheld for pure motives, can possibly be credited to another deity: “[If anyone] keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me [Christ/Aslan] that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”
Note that this is not the same thing as rewarding somebody who has been offered the opportunity to serve Christ but chooses to serve another; instead, it is an offer made to those who have not been introduced, or properly introduced, to Christ, but who nonetheless act in righteous accord with Christ’s will — and who, when finally confronted with Christ, recognize and accept Him as true God.
The Calormene, Emeth, was indeed welcomed into Aslan’s eternal Kingdom.
It is up to Christ, not us, to determine whether someone merits salvation. But it is certainly not our prerogative on Earth to reject the alliance and aid of someone just because they are unschooled in our customs. If they try, in good conscience, to do that which is good, we should welcome them, and bring them even further into the fold.
Part of evangelism is the act of welcoming others to the cause. Let us do so in generous spirit — and in doing so, work with them to spread God’s love.