"..for whoever is not against you is for you." Luke 9:50
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." Luke 11:23
It doesn't appear that these two phrases from Jesus add up do they? They come within two small chapters of one another in the gospel of Luke, yet they seem to contradict each other. Don't worry - they don't. Jesus is the most brilliant teacher the world has ever known, and as very God and very man, He was (and is) incapable of contradicting Himself regarding truth. With that said, it still doesn't make these verses easy to figure out - at least at first.
Jesus gives us a picture of the borders of the kingdom (using a McLaren phrase). As I write, there is a heated political debate going on about the borders of our country, and what our policy on immigration should look like. Jesus, here, is not talking about physical borders of a country, but I think He is saying something about entrance into kingdom country.
There are some who want to conclude exactly who is "in" and who is "out" when it comes to the kingdom of God (note the verses preceding Luke 9:50 and you will see that very spirit from some of Jesus' closest associates). Taken further, some want to wall off the borders of the kingdom and not grant access to those who are on the outside. To this, Jesus makes a statement like "whoever is not against you is for you" to his disciples; and in so doing points out the radical inclusion of the invitation to come into the Kingdom of God's Son, Jesus. Anybody, of any background, race, pedigree or origin, has a radical invitation to come into the kingdom. But not everybody can come............
Because there are others who are naive enough to think that the open invitation MUST include everyone, no matter the posture of their heart. It can't be. To them Jesus says, "He who is not with me is against me...". That comment comes as Jesus points out that a kingdom that is divided against itself cannot stand. So, those who don't have the kingdom in mind - who don't want to follow the King of the Kingdom - they can't come into the kingdom (as much as the King wishes they would and has done everything possible to see that they can).
What does this mean practically if we weave these two statements together?
Well, I think it means that the kingdom is open to everyone of every kind, but only those who really want to be there can come in. Sound confusing? Maybe at first pass it is, but think on it for a while and let it sink in. It's like if you wanted to build a house and you invited anyone of any skill level to help build the house (men, women, children, those with physical challenges, etc.). Everyone is welcome to help build the house........except, of course, anyone who simply wants to demolish a house. They must be excluded, because the house would never get built that way.
So, too, in the kingdom. The borders of the kingdom are inviting and open and welcoming. But you better have the interests of the kingdom in mind if you desire to enter, or you won't be granted access. The Apostle Paul echoed these sentiments by noting there are some who won't inherent the kingdom of God (specifically in Ephesians 5:3-7).
I guess our response to this ought to be that we continue to act as ambassadors of our King by proclaiming the great news that the kingdom is accessible to anyone and everyone, and reminding them that the only condition is that they give all their allegiance to King Jesus.
And maybe if they saw what transformation the King has brought to our lives, they would want to.