THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF NEUTRALITY
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad.”
The picture of gathering and scattering may come from either of two backgrounds. It may come from harvesting; he who is not sharing in gathering the harvest is scattering the grain abroad, and is therefore losing it to the wind. It may come from shepherding; he who is not helping to keep the flock safe by bringing it into the fold is driving it out to the dangers of the hills.
In this one piercing sentence Jesus lays down the impossibility of neutrality. W. C. Allen writes: “In this war against Satan’s strongholds there are only two sides, for Christ or against him, gathering with him or scattering with Satan.” We may take a very simple analogy. We may apply this saying to ourselves and to the Church. If our presence does not strengthen the Church, then our absence is weakening it. There is no halfway house. In all things a man has to choose his side; abstention from choice, suspended action, is no way out, because the refusal to give one side assistance is in fact the giving of support to the other.
There are three things which make a man seek this impossible neutrality.
(i) There is the sheer inertia of human nature. It is true of so many people that the only thing they desire is to be left alone. They automatically shrink away from anything which is disturbing, and even choice is a disturbance.
(ii) There is the sheer cowardice of human nature. Many a man refuses the way of Christ because he is afraid to take the stand which Christianity demands. The basic thing that stops him is the thought of what other people win say. The voice of his neighbours is louder in his ears than the voice of God.
(iii) There is the sheer flabbiness of human nature. Most people would rather have security than adventure, and the older they grow the more that is so. A challenge always involves adventure; Christ comes to us with a challenge, and often we would rather have the comfort of selfish inaction than the adventure of action for Christ.
The saying of Jesus–“He who is not with me is against me”–presents us with a problem, for both Mark and Luke have a saying which is the very reverse, “He that is not against us is for us” (Mk.9:40; Lk.9:50). But they are not so contradictory as they seem. It is to be noted that Jesus spoke the second of them when his disciples came and told him that they had sought to stop a man from casting out devils in his name, because he was not one of their company. So a wise suggestion has been made. “He that is not with me is against me,” is a test that we ought to apply to ourselves. Am I truly on the Lord’s side, or, am I trying to shuffle through life in a state of cowardly neutrality? “He that is not against us is for us,” is a test that we ought to apply to others. Am I given to condemning everyone who does not speak with my theology and worship with my liturgy and share my ideas? Am I limiting the Kingdom of God to those who think as I do?
The saying in this present passage is a test to apply to ourselves; the saying in Mark and Luke is a test to apply to others; for we must ever judge ourselves with sternness and other people with tolerance.
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