When I was a child in school, the greatest form of embarrassment was to be one of the last chosen to be on a team in gym class. I abhorred being forced to go to gym, only to face embarrassment, especially when it was basketball or football. Those are two sports that are totally foreign to me... just look at me!!! In any event, I was the “outsider,” the excluded.
But there were other areas in school I excelled in and was quick to be an “insider,” relishing the chance to glare down at those who excluded me in gum. “Tit for tat”, as the saying goes, although we don’t use this saying much these days due to the sexist undertones or overtones. In any event, when you are on the inside, the experience is usually a good and comfortable one, since you are in a position of power.
The disciples tell Jesus about an individual NOT in their company ( outsider) casting out demons in the name of Jesus. They are disturbed by the actions of an outsider and make thus known to Jesus who clearly rebukes them. He reminds them that ANYONE who is not working against them is WITH them. In effect, Jesus shatters the “you’re either in or out” mentality.
We Christians, in fact, ALL people of faith need to abandon a way of thinking that boils down to an “either or” mentality. Exclusion from the group, not being “picked” so to speak, is only for those individuals who are destructive and hateful in their way of thinking. The conflicts between religions and within each religion is a primary cause why so many choose not to belong to organized religion. Worse yet, more atheists are created by the way we religious types behave, by excluding and condemning to hell those who disagree.
Religion is a beautiful force for good, building cultures and bridges, creating beauty by the convictions of doctrines. But religion can be a force of evil and destruction when it is used as a tool of power and aggression. Jesus places a CHILD in the midst of the disciples and says that those who become like a child shall enter his Kingdom. A powerless, complete vulnerable child. Good, transformative religion makes us childlike, filled with wonder and joy, able to join hands with ANYONE who wants to include us.