“He who is not with me is against me,” Jesus once warned some skeptics who accused him of expelling demons by the power of Satan (Lk. 11:23). No one can encounter the Son of God and remain neutral about his identity. His radical claims will not go away, nor will his call to life-giving, life-absorbing and life-changing discipleship. To meet the Christ is to face a crisis. His very presence demands decision.
On another occasion, Jesus’ disciples reported with alarm, “We saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to hinder him because he does not follow along with us” (9:49). Jesus’ reply was immediate and clear. “He who is not against you is for you,” he tells his possessive and self-focused disciples (Lk. 9:50). Even then, Jesus’ followers did not all run together. Jesus had some disciples whom the Twelve did not know — and who apparently did not join the larger band who trailed behind the Twelve. But they knew Jesus, and he knew them, and that was enough.
Do we hear the message in our own time? We are not called to preach ourselves or our group (2 Cor. 4:5). Not our denomination or our non-denomination. Not our “brotherhood” or our “movement” or our “fellowship.” We are called to proclaim Jesus and to win disciples for him. God still has other sheep outside our smaller folds. Sectarian impulses die slowly, but die they must. When Jesus comes again, we will see that loyalty to him is all that ever really mattered. If you are “for” Jesus, you and I are on the same side — whether or not you are part of “my group” in any other sense. To be for Jesus is all I can ask of you. And when I see clearly, I know that it is the best I can ever hope for myself as well.