I don’t know how many times I have heard that phrase. The most notable use of it in the last 10-15 years was when President George W. Bush used it in the build up of the “War on Terror”. It was easy to be sucked into the hysteria of those days, believing revenge on the 9-11 attackers was just and right. Of course, the purpose of this post is not to dredge up old arguments of Bush era days. I mean, it is over 10 years ago when we began fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9-11. As my children would say, “it’s ancient history.”
My real point is to discuss that phrase. It is a phrase that is used often and it sounds almost Biblical in its power. Maybe, that’s because it is almost Biblical.
As we do most nights, our family was reading from the scriptures after family dinner. Tonight, we read from Luke, chapter 9. How many times I must have glossed over the verse, I don’t know, but tonight, for some reason, the verse came alive in my mind. In verse 49, the author had just recounted Jesus casting out a devil from a boy and now, the disciples were explaining to Jesus that they had forbade someone from casting out devils because that person was not a disciple or follower of Jesus. In verse 50, it reads:
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
When I read this, I thought back to that famous line in my title. The popular line is the exact opposite sentiment of what Jesus was preaching here. I immediately was lost in thought as to wonder, how often in our zeal to preach what we believe to be righteousness do we forbid others because they are not of our same belief system? How often do we think, “oh, but that person is a Muslim” or “that person is a Catholic” or “that person is an athiest.”
The message Jesus was preaching here is clear, find the common beliefs and build upon those. Don’t divide. Don’t separate from others because of disagreements. Those that are not against us are for us.
Jesus taught another important lesson when he explained that a tree that bears good fruit is good, while a tree that bears evil fruit is evil. By their fruits, ye shall know them. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.
In this world, there are many evil people, but our awareness of those evil people is largely possible because there are also so many good people. It is easy to see the world as completely populated by evil because we listen to the news media sensationalize every bad piece of news. Why? Because bad news sells, good news is boring. So we are constantly fed the bad news.
The truth is this: the world has many more good people in it that bad. If this were not true, then society would have collapsed into darkness long ago. Instead, society has reached a point where it is nearly possible to go to any country and for the most part be safe. This is an extraordinary fact. The fact that you can still walk at midnight in your neighborhood and not be mugged is also proof that the world is not as dark and bleak as we often believe it to be.
Now, I’m not trying to argue that we don’t have severe problems in the world. We do. What I am saying, is that our friends, our neighbors, our fellow humans on this planet, most of them are seeking to do good. The fact that most are seeking to do good is evidence that those that fight for righteousness, or in other words, the good of mankind, those people have many more allies.
The challenge for us is to reach out to our neighbors who may not always be of the same beliefs or practices as ourselves. Find the commonalities and build upon that.
Those that are not against us are for us.