“If Christ is for us, then who can be against us?”
This Scriptural verse is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in chapter 8, the chapter that precedes Paul addressing the issue of the salvation of Israel in chapters 9-11. If Christ is for us, then who indeed can be against us. Well, I guess the accurate answer to such a question can be seen in this Gospel as well as the other 2 readings this Sunday.
It’s clear that our Lord sets up two camps in his response to John the Apostle when John starts complaining to Jesus about some unknown dude casting out demons as he uses Jesus’ name. “He’s not supposed to do that! I’ve never seen him in our small group of followers! Where did he come from? Maybe he’s an alien?” But the truth is that he isn’t an alien to the ways of Christ. It’s obvious he knew the Lord, witnessing Christ at some other point in his ministry when Jesus himself called out a demon or two. “Gee, I wonder if I can do that in his name.” He found out the answer.
Jesus’ response to John sets up two camps; “For whoever is not against us is for us.” So, the first understanding that flows from those words is that there is evil in the world. This is one camp. There are those who are against Christ; against his ways of love, forgiveness, peace, compassion, his ways of making whole a person who was torn apart by a demon or some other issue. Whatever does not reflect the Person of Jesus Christ, knowing the radical truth of who he is and applying it in our lives, is against him. Every time we sin, we are against him. That’s why he says to cut off the limbs and pluck out the eye. Throw away whatever is against the holiness of Him who is the Source of all holiness. It’s much better to go to heaven with a prosthetic, then not go to heaven at all, the place we are called to.
In this first camp, who are the ones who are against Christ? This isn’t like Yankees fans being against Red Sox fans. That stuff is tiny when placed alongside the reality of what’s going on in these Scripture readings. Who are the ones against Christ? The demons are. They made their choice; they made the wrong choice and they went with the guy with the pitchfork. They chose the Devil in their one choice of siding with either love and life, or eternal death and violence. They chose the latter. They chose ugliness, and forcing their ugliness on human beings. Right from the Garden of Eden forward to this day. This is why the Eucharist is so essential; the Eucharist is the most powerful form of protection against those who are against the Son of God.
But here’s where the hard answer comes at us; we know the demons are against Jesus. Christ is everything they are not. From love all the way to humility and mercy. All that is good for us. The hard answer to who is against Christ are those who are meant to love him, which is every human being. Not one person is created to stand against God. Yet, there are many of those made in his image and likeness who do stand against the One who created them. Just like the Devil and his slew of demons, these created beings, who fought against God instead of trusting Him and letting Him be the boss that He is. The sin of pride is the deadliest sin. It opens the door to fighting against God in ways of hating Him instead of loving Him.
What that guy is doing in this Gospel that gets under the skin of John the Apostle, it’s an act of full cooperation with Christ who shares his loving power with us. We have power within us; the power to be for him or against him. I suspect we are all here because we are for him. Because we love the Savior of the world who died for us so that we may live forever. If we lose that central insight to our faith, then we will start to build a bridge against him, which many have done. And in doing so, they have set up in their lives this most unnatural relationship with God.
As human beings, we are made to be for God, and for his Son, and for the Holy Spirit. That is the correct team to be on. The sin that Jesus talks about, the cutting off this and plucking out that, it places us on a team that is unnatural for us. The wrong team. We’re here because we have chosen Christ, through thick and thin, through life and death, through the ups and downs. We are for Him, because we know he will bring us back together again. That Christ has power over not only the weak-minded demons who get scared when he is in close proximity, knowing they will be crushed by Him. But his power extends to the crushing of our greatest enemy, death itself.
There are two camps set up in this world. We have every reason in the world to be for him, because his victory is assured. By being for Christ, we are like the angels who made the choice of loving God, and not like the demons who rejected him in their free will, causing all sorts of problems for those made in the image and likeness of God.
Be for Christ, and all that is good. Which is our most natural state of life.