Anyone who is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:40)
On the face of it, this could seem to be a very puzzling statement by Jesus - especially alongside other things he said. In other places we read that the gate is narrow, the first last and the last first, not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. We hear of the likely disappointment of those who lay up treasure on earth. Of the rich man who goes to Hell while the poor man Lazarus goes to heaven. It may seem that the road to eternal life is hard and tough and narrow … and those who are not Christians, not baptised, outside the faith, outside the Church or even inside but do not live faithful lives, simple do not make it .. They are not ‘with us’.
But actually, the more we think about it, the clearer the message becomes. The invitation is generous, but the challenge tremendous … and it is not we who judge, but God.
When Christ speaks of the challenges of the life of faith, he is speaking to me, to each one of us individually. I am the one who should tear my own eye out - so to speak- if it causes me to sin. I am the one who is responsible for myself, my own acts, my life of faith. I am the one who must follow the commandments, keep the law of God, love my neighbour, be honest in all my dealings, not harbour grudges.
And when Christ speaks of the wide open doors of the kingdom, the welcome to those of good will, of other faiths and none, to those who ‘are not against us’, he is not speaking about me, but about my neighbours who I must love and not judge, who I must forgive and not resent, who I must cherish and not fear.
It might seem to be another paradox: it is, and that is the logic of love.