Sunday, September 30, 2007

With us or against us?

Last week we had four people staying with us at Urban Seed for Mission Exposure, which is a time for people to find out a bit about what we do, and the ideas behind what we do. We started off the week by each sharing a bit about our faith journies, particularly how different things have influenced how we see God, the world and our place within the world. We tend to end up with some fairly diverse ideas in the room, so I started off the sharing time with some thoughts on some things Jesus said:

Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see.
The crowds were all amazed at what Jesus had done. 'Could he be the Son of David?' they asked.
When the Pharisees heard this, they replied, 'He drives out demons only because their ruler, the Devil, gives him power to do so.'
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and so he said to them, 'Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart. So if one group is fighting another in Satan's kingdom, this means that it is already divided into groups and will soon fall apart! You say that I drive out demons because the Devil gives me the power to do so. Well, then, who gives your followers the power to drive them out? What your own followers do proves that you are wrong! No, it is not the Devil, but God's Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.
'No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.
'Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering.'
(Matthew 12:22-30)

An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he took a child, stood him by his side, and said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this child in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, also welcomes the one who sent me. For the one who is least among you all is the greatest.'
John spoke up, 'Master, we saw a man driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn't belong to our group.'
'Do not try to stop him,' Jesus said to him and to the other disciples, 'because whoever is not against you is for you.'
(Luke 9:46-50)
This is a bit confusing, because it seems like Matthew has Jesus saying that people who aren't part of your group are against you, and as though Luke has Jesus saying that people from other groups are really trying to do the same things as us.
In 2001, after the terrorist attacks in the United States, George Bush paraphrased Jesus, saying to the nations of the world, 'Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.'
However, in both of these stories Jesus is actually working against division. In Matthew's gospel Jesus tells those who are trying to demonise him that he's doing the same thing as them, and that his power comes from the same place.
In Luke's story, Jesus' disciples are arguing about who's the best, and straight afterwards they're wanting to stop people who aren't part of their group from doing good things. Jesus tells them that just because someone is from a different group doesn't mean we're in competition with them.