“Anyone who is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:45
It is very easy to fall into the mentality that unless they are like us, they must be against us. This mentality is most often grounded in fear, ignorance, or simply an inability to see outside oneself. Jesus’ challenge to us is to realise that just because someone is not ‘part of the club’ does not mean that they are trying to destroy – our faith, our society, or our culture.
When I think about the Church, at times it has been very open to being enriched by the culture and society in which it exists, at times it has been very insular and critical of anything outside of its own cultural practice (a cultural practice which, by the way, has been heavily influenced by the Roman societal culture of the day in which it developed). In recent decades there has been a great realisation that God works beyond the confines of the institutional Church and that we can learn from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are not in full communion with us. Just because they do not share everything in common with us, does not mean we cannot learn from the way that they embrace faith, the way they worship, the way they empower their young people. There is great richness in their traditions and if we take the time to dialogue with them, we may just learn something from their experience and even come to a deeper appreciation of our own faith.
During the week I was part of a Zoom meeting with other Church ministers of the region who had gathered with the Mayor to pray for our city. It is really encouraging to see how Christians from differing faith traditions (Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Catholic) can come together ecumenically: to be able to voice our concerns, support one another and pray together for the people of our region, acknowledging that we are all working for the greater glory of God. It is a great blessing to be able to come together and place all our cares, our hopes and our aspirations before our God as one group, united by our faith in Jesus Christ.
The real challenge is to not see ‘the other’ as a threat to us, but rather to look at the fruits of what they are doing , what they are saying and how they are living. As we hear in the Gospel, ‘he who is not against us is for us.’ We need to be open to the reality that the Holy Spirit is bigger than our agenda and can not be contained by our world-view – to recognise that God is at work in all people, and is doing a great thing in drawing us closer together. May we desire true unity in the ‘Body of Christ’ and build bridges among God’s people, regardless of race, culture or creed.