For whoever is not against us is for us. Mark 9, verse 40.
There’s a lot we could talk about with this verse. The terrible Iran deal that all but guarantees war; the factionalism of American politics these days (heck, world politics); the divisions in society with gay marriage, drug legalization, and permissiveness: in all these, if you take a side, whoever is not against you is for you.
That’s not all that Jesus was talking about. No, Jesus was talking about believing. Whoever believes in Jesus is with you. Whoever doesn’t isn’t. Your denomination, your church customs, your traditions: those things matter and they’re important. But they don’t matter much and are relatively unimportant compared to simply professing belief in Him. If we have that in common, we have more than enough. If we share that belief, then we’re standing on common ground. We’re for each other because we’re for Jesus.
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the death of a friend of mine. I think I’ve written about Tom in the past. He died of cancer just a few months over a year from the time the doctors first diagnosed it. He was a good man, and I have a few choice memories of him that get me past the fact of how much I hate cancer for what it did to him. Tibbetts was a man who could disagree with you and call you out on just why, but when I knew him he would let things lay at that and still raise a glass with you when the talking was done. My life became better for knowing him; my grandson is named for him. Tom’s gone now; his body is buried in Beloit. I saw his grave there a few months ago, and I was sad for the fact that the headstone wasn’t up yet. It seemed unfair because he was a larger than life guy who died large even as he lived large. Tom’s living large still because he believed in Jesus, because he subordinated his life to Jesus. He’s standing on the common ground of heaven. He was for Jesus, now Jesus is with him.
And I think about Pope Francis. It’s doubtful I’ll ever meet the pontiff. And for all those who are screaming of how Francis is ‘the antichrist,’ well folks, kiss my grits. I don’t agree with all of Francis’ stands but I don’t think it’s arguable that he’s a diligent servant of Christ. He’s devout, honest, forthright, and powerfully driven to use the powers of his office to help the poor of our world. To me, that’s Christ-like behavior. I’m no Roman Catholic; couldn’t be one because I fundamentally disagree with many of their practices. But I believe a man like Francis is with me, a brother (and a leader) in the faith. Accordingly, we’re on the same team and I look forward to meeting him in the life everlasting.
We can disagree all day long about the myriad of ways in which we’re different, or you’re right and I’m wrong, or stupid things like that. We can disagree about the right color to paint the classrooms at church, just when Jesus enters into Holy Communion, whether the Apostle John was a boy or a man, and a bunch of other things that really don’t matter much. When you boil away all that dross, the golden metal of Jesus should be the only thing that’s left. As long as we believe in Him, in that, then we are in union.
Jesus I am for You.
Read Mark 9, verses 38-41.