"Whoever is not with me is against me"
To this day, that politician is derided in many circles for being so simplistic (if not paranoid) in making such a statement.
With this as a background, one might wonder if some people would take our Lord’s statement in today’s Gospel (Luke 11:15-28) as simplistic and paranoid:
Whoever is not with me is against me.
Of course, in Mark 9:40, our Lord says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
If he were a politician, some might accuse our Lord of being a “flip-flopper”.
Of course, context is everything.
In today’s Gospel, our Lord is speaking of struggles against powerful forces of evil: struggles that can be permanently won only by the power of one stronger than the strong man of evil.
Our Lord, of course, is that stronger One (indeed, infinitely strong) and our fate is grim if we are not aligned with him.
If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.
In a universe of many terrors and evils - seen and unseen, subtle and powerful – we need to stay close to the Lord.
Of course, the dualism of good and evil (or rather, good and the privation of due good) often seems very mixed in our concrete world: sadistic killers are kind to their children and neighbors while peaceable suburbanites commute to their humdrum cubicles and serve as cogs in mechanisms of slaughter.
This is not relativism – objective good and objective evil are real, and every individual will be judged by God whose wisdom will pierce every convoluted veil of rationalization – but it is a reminder of how difficult it can be for mere humans to make these judgments. That is why such “for us or against us” statements – sometimes useful in times of crisis (the politician's statements were made in September 2001) – can be so problematic.
Our Lord, of course, knows the heart of every man; he knows the power of evil and he knows his own power which is at work in the world.
That is why he can say in the context of this Gospel (in speaking of his own power against the “strong man”) “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters” but in the context of Mark 9 (in speaking of a man drawing upon Christ’s power even though he is not one of his official disciples) “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
May we always draw our strength from Christ and help others to understand the power of Christ in their lives (even though they may not recognize him), so that by his grace we may all grow closer to our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(adapted from a previous post)