It is commonly said in politics that “you’re either with us or against us.”
While framing a fight as “us or them” is a rhetorically powerful way to raise the emotional stakes for commitment, such an attitude distorts reality by unnecessarily creating enemies out of potential allies.
It also runs in complete contradiction to the Word of God.
Let me set the stage. The disciples of Jesus had been out and about in the countryside and they saw people they did not know performing miracles in the name of Jesus. So they told Jesus—no doubt hoping to earn accolades from their Teacher—that they had tried to stop these people.
They got something else, instead.
“Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me,” said Jesus.
Pay attention to the next 11 words, found in Mark 9:40. “For the one who is not against us is for us.”
The political world says, “If you aren’t for us, then you are against us.”
But Jesus says, “The one who is not against us is for us.”
The difference could not be more striking. I witness it all the time. Worse, I know (with a high degree of embarrassment) that I’ve held that wrong attitude myself.
When we treat the unaligned person—that neighbor who has never voted, the family member who doesn’t have an opinion on the issue du jour—as an enemy, they have a funny way of becoming one.
We should spend less time looking for enemies and more time realizing—to borrow from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians—that the real fight is “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
In the cause of liberty, there are actual opponents; there are those who have declared themselves against us. They should be dealt with as appropriate. But the fight that matters is the war against bad ideas, harmful ideologies, and outright evil.
Rather than side with the fallen world in assuming the worst when someone is unaligned, let’s hopefully assume the best in our neighbors. Rather than imagine enemies, let’s be about the business of creating new allies.