I have learned from Jewish-Christian dialogue that an "us and them" stance can be the starting point for hospitality. In inter-religious dialogue, there is just no use pretending that we're all the same. And once acknowledged, a path of hospitality can be followed. It is as simple as acknowledging that a visitor in your home does not live there, but he or she is welcome all the same. There is also the positive spin that the us-group's well-being is tied to the well-being of the them-group.
The darker side of this coin is the "insiders and outsiders" paradigm. This is characterized by a territorial and inhospitable stance toward those who do not exhibit the markers necessary to be trusted.
With this in mind, I have puzzled over the Jesus tradition. There is much in the Gospel portraits of Jesus that suggest a very inclusive Jesus. There is also much that suggests otherwise. But rather than surveying all of he evidence, consider these two statements attributed to Jesus:
Jesus said that "He who is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40).
(Jesus said) "He who is not with me is against me." (Luke 11:23).Now, depending on one's way of reading Scripture, there are several moves that an interpreter can make.
1) Both are true and Jesus said both. Jesus found himself in two different contexts and different contexts (sometimes) demand different answers.
2) Luke took the saying from Mark and deliberately changed it to suit his literary agenda.
3) As a saying of this ilk circulated in oral tradition, it was remembered differently by different communities.
4) There is no reason to think that Jesus said either of these; both were invented independently by different groups within early Christianity.
5) Jesus said both and meant both but not concurrently. His early career exhibited an inclusive stance, but he became increasingly exclusive as his career progressed.
Which way of reading is most helpful for explaining the relationship between these two sayings? Is there another way not represented in the five listed here? And what does such variance tell us about Jesus (if anything)?
Anthony Le Donne (PhD) is the author of Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?