Luke 11:21-23 (CEV)
21 When a strong man arms himself and guards his home, everything he owns is safe. 22 But if a stronger man comes and defeats him, he will carry off the weapons in which the strong man trusted. Then he will divide with others what he has taken. 23 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don’t gather in the crop with me, you scatter it.
No Room For Fence Sitting
At Vox we like to have fuzzy edges.
We like to have loose boundaries.
We don’t like to draw lines on the sand and say, “you’re in” or “you’re out”. That kind of thinking and speaking makes a lot of us pretty uncomfortable.
We worry that this is about exclusion, or that it’s about judgment. We worry that if we hold to this talk of “sides” that people will be left out or that by definition we will become smaller.
To me, none of those match up with the rest of what Jesus talks about. He talks of a Kingdom with lots of work to be done, and only a few people to do it. He talks of a mansion with lots of rooms in it – room enough for everyone. And although many would like to define Christianity by narrow rules of exclusion, this is not the good news I see told as Jesus touches the unclean, eats with the ‘sinner’ and speaks to the outcast.
So why this call to choose a side? If Jesus is so keen on making space for all who are hurting, why bother putting a boundary in at all?
It’s a funny thing about the Gospels, but it seems that Jesus has these wide, open, spacious outer edges to his group. Anyone can start on the journey. There are no barriers to entry. No preconditions to joining the edge of the crowd. You want to watch what he does for a while? See a few miracles? Listen to a few of his stories? Even ask him some questions or share lunch with him ‘on the house’? That’s perfectly fine with him.
But the closer in you get, the more Jesus seems to want you to realize that this Kingdom-building work is a serious business. That following him requires doing life his way. That ultimately, (as neuroscientists have now discovered) you can’t follow a path of love and a path of fear at the same time – it just won’t work. The weapons of fear that you create to ‘ward off the enemy’ will one day be used against you, and then where will you be?
So the only option, if you truly want to follow Jesus – if you truly want to become part of this shalom-bringing, Kingdom-birthing work – is to choose love over fear.
When fear leads, there is division. When love leads, there is reconciliation.
When fear leads, the differences between us become a yawning chasm. When love leads, we find we can see so much of ourself in the other.
When fear leads, we hold tight – to our ideas, to our possessions, to our relationships. When love leads, we learn to hold lightly, giving room for us to see the world from a bigger, broader, more colourful and more beautiful perspective.
I won’t lie and say this is easy. When I first started thinking about this a few years ago I decided I would try to notice every time I was acting or speaking out of fear, to pause and to ask myself the question, ‘what would love do?’ It turned out that there was a lot of fear acting and speaking in me. But it also turned out that I almost always knew what love would do instead. And as I started leaning into love I saw all sorts of examples of ‘Kingdom’ breaking into my life and the lives of those around me. Don’t get me wrong – I still get afraid, I still act out of fear – but my choice is to choose love.
And I think this is why Jesus says we can no longer straddle the fence. The point of his coming is to bring about Kingdom change in our lives, that change is rooted in and birthed out of love, and you simply can’t live out of fear and love at the same time.
The edges and the boundaries will always stay permeable with Jesus – despite what fearful people might want us to believe. But for those of us who want to participate in the work of the Kingdom, we are given a choice. Not because Jesus is mean or hard or difficult, but simply because it’s impossible to do both, and Jesus knows the power and the impact this choice will have on us and on our world.
- Where would you say you are in your journey to following Jesus? Are you near the back of the crowd, just exploring the ideas, or have you wormed your way towards the centre, hoping to be part of the Kingdom story?
- How often do you feel afraid?
- Would you be willing to take time to pray, asking God to show you where fear lives in your life?
- Would you be willing to ask Him to show you what love would do?