I told you yesterday about the “advance” I had with men from my congregation and a few other congregation. I talked about the petition “Lead us not into temptation” from the Model Prayer of Matthew 6/Luke 11 at that advance. As part of my time, I explained to the men that there were two ways to live, each of which went to a different destination, a fact I illustrated with this picture:
As I said yesterday, the men often spoke up during my time, asking me questions or even challenging my conclusions. One of them did just that, telling me that instead of depicting the “lead us not” concept as the choosing of one destination over another I should depict it as a sliding scale.
This same idea came up at a discipleship group I led last night. We read Matthew 12:22-32 to start the group, and one of the guys there said Jesus’ teaching about “whoever is not with me is against me” reminded him of this sliding scale concept. He said that the more he walked toward Jesus, the less he walked toward both the negative acts of temptation as well as the neutral things that are just “not Jesus”. He also said it worked the other way as well, that the more he walked toward either negative or neutral things, the less he walked toward Jesus.
And I wholeheartedly agreed with that. I think discipleship is a sliding scale like that. Or, to use a term I like even better, it is a spectrum.
By nothing more than the very nature of things, the more you move toward one end of a spectrum, the more you move away from the other end of the spectrum and vice versa. It is not puritanical, patriarchal, Victorian, or any other negative adjective that might be (and often are) thrown at it. It is just the nature of things.
That being the case, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:30 about whoever not being for Him being against Him seems less harsh and much more sensible. It is nothing more than a fact, nothing more than that sliding scale or spectrum.
And that, again, shows just how good and important this “lead us not into temptation” idea is. Temptation is on the other side of the scale/spectrum from Jesus. If we walk to it, we are not just “sinning”; we are moving away from Jesus, from God, from the Kingdom. The central question, then, becomes not “What can I get away with?” (which was the question me and my peers were always asking in youth group” or “Why is God so black-and-white?”, but rather, “What side of the scale/spectrum do I want to be on?”
Or, to put it another way: