Sunday Readings: Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-48
“Whoever is not against us is for us.” – Mark 9.40
This Sunday the disciple John raises a question about who can act in Jesus’ name. “Teacher, someone is casting out demons in your name.” John admits that he and the other disciples stopped the man. He was not one of their company, so he should not act in Jesus’ name, they reasoned.
Jesus’ response teaches his disciples not to box in his power. Jesus reasons that a person liberating another in his name cannot also speak evil of him. Jesus claims broad middle ground in this saying, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Such middle ground is fertile space for transformation. Often activists, liberal and conservative, reverse Jesus’ saying and eliminate middle ground. In trying to mobilize advocates for change in public policies, they insist whoever is not for us is against us, complicit.
Middle ground is valuable space to preserve. It’s where we explore what we have in common with others, what they have experienced, why they think the way they do. Middle ground is where people share their stories. What is the experience of a suburban stay-at-home mom, a refugee from Somalia in a foreign culture, an undocumented immigrant working a minimum-wage job at a hotel, an African American nurse who has experienced people shunning his or her touch.
Middle ground is where real people replace stereotypes and liberate each other from the demons of prejudice and unexamined certainty. Middle ground is where someone else’s lived experience can broaden and transform our own.
What experience of middle ground becoming common ground have you had?What can you do to widen common ground in your parish? In your neighborhood? Work place?