Jesus says to His disciples, "Anyone who is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:40).
A pastor was asked about his Church membership. "We have eight hundred members," he said. "How many active members?" the questioner asked. "All of them," the pastor rspiied. "Half are working with me and half are working against me." He then spelled it out in terms of what he called a Basin Theology: "In the story of Jesus' Passion, Jesus showed the disciples by His example what to do about His Presence in their lives. He called for a basin and proceeded to wash their feet. When Pontius Pilate had to decide what to do about Jesus' Presence in his life, he called for a basin and proceeded to wash his hands of the whole thing. "
"Anyone who is not against us is for us" (Mk. 9:40). In another place, Jesus says, He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. (Mt. 12.:30)
Both sayings are meant to deliver the same message: when it comes down to the bare bones truth about our reIationship with Christ, the Gospel admits of no neutrality. Unlike membership in ordinary man-made institutions, any notion of inactive Church-members or passive Church-members or indifferent Church-members is a contradiction.
Whatever the goals of man-made institutions, in the final analysis they have their limitations. And there are limits to the duties and responsibilities of the individual member; there is a point where the commitment either gives way to other commitments or it terminates. And even the most enduring commitment to a cause ends at the moment of death. But there is one societv -- and only one -- that differs in these two respects from all others. And that is the society we call Church. The Church is different.
First, the scope of the commitment implied in active Church membership is limitless, that is, it embraces the whole of its members' lives. The duties and responsibilities of its metnbers are not limited to a few specific activities or a corner of life, but the full range of human existence. Second, the duration of the commitment is not limited to a certain time-frame. Even death does not transform membership into ex-membership. The commitment implied in Church membership is rooted in eternity. This brings us to the most important distinction of all, the very basis of aI1 that distinguishes the Church from other societies: ordinary societies are conceived and established by human beings such as we; only the society we call Church can claim the Son of God as its Founder and Head. Only the Church of Jesus Christ can demand the total aIlegiance of its membership. Only the Church of Jesus Christ can claim eternal life as its stated, goal. In the Apostle Paul's words, "God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the Plan He was pleased to decree in Christ, to be carried out in the fullness of time; namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one, under Christ's headship." (Eph. 1:9-10). This is the meaning of, both the Church and the business of the Church. Now, obviously, if the Church, in God’s Plan, consists of "All things in the heavens and on earth reconciled under Christ's Headship," then the Church has yet to realize its full potential. The Church is still engaged in the process of becomlng. The Church is a continuing event that is being accomplished in history and through people. Not people "out there" somewhere, not some mysterious "they" whom we are fond of charging with all sorts of responsibility, but people like us.
It is people like us who are charged with the limitless duties and responsibilities of reconciling all things in Christ. It is people like us who are asked to commit our whole selves, body and soul, to this task. It is people like us who are challenged to root our allegiance in eternity. For people like us there is no time off from going about the Church's business. For people like us there is no "time off for good behavior. "There is not time off for a people who are called by the Spirit to confess the Lord Jesus as Redeemer, and charged by the Lord Jesus to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under His Headship.” One of the world's biggest problems is that while bad people stay awake nights thinking up ways to be bad, the so-called good people go to sleep. There is no virtue in our ordinary doing if, ordinarily we are doing nothing. There is no virtue in our ordinary doing if ordinarily we equate goodness with indifference. ”There is no virtue in our ordinary doing if ordinarily we regard the downtrodden and the outcasts of our time as problems we hope will go away rather than brothers and sisters who need our helping hands.
We need to hear and accept without reservation Jesus' promise to us: Any person who gives a drink of water in His Name will never go unrewarded. Because we are who we are, because we are human beings, we cannot bear the notion that our lives should go unrewarded. Our human nature is constantly driving us in search of fulfillment. And Jesus is telling us today precisely where the search for a rewarding life begins and ends. The most rewarding experience in life, Jesus tells us, comes in the giving of that drink of water -- especially to those who thirst most for someone who really cares. The act of caring-and-giving is life's most fulfilling experience in terms of getting to know who we are, why we are, where we're going.
We go to Church and we offer words of praise to God. We talk about God. We sing about God. We read about C;od. Rut we will never experience the Loving Presence of God in this world and in our very souls, if we are not the "givers-of-a-drink- of-water" that Jesus wants us to be. Give that drink of water, not only to those you find easiest to love, but also and especially to those you find hardest to love. Give, give, give, and then come to Church, as an earnest Christian: to praise the God you have discovered through the joy of giving, and to thank Him for realizing His loving Presence in your act of giving.
Active Church membership implies love for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for all God’s children. We cannot be neutral on this point.