When children get together for a pick-up game of basketball or softball they often choose sides. They decide on two captains, who picks first, and then the selection begins. Some may not get on the team they wanted or be happy about their side, but they understand it is our team against their team.
We learn early about teams, sides, and us versus them. Most of us develop a sense of competition by competing, and we learn it is better to win than to lose. Another point we discover is the futility of trying to be on two opposing teams at once. Going back to our example of a pick-up game, I remember times when we had an odd number of players. In this position we had three choices; one had to sit out, one team had more players, or one player played on both teams. None of the choices were good for the odd-man out. Who wants to sit out while others are playing and the team with more players may have an advantage or disadvantage depending on the game and skill of players.
Perhaps the worst case is when one competitor must play for both teams. You cannot win or lose, or maybe you both win and lose. Who are you going to root for? Which team will get your best effort? When you do well for one team it hurts the other team. The truth is it is just not real fulfilling to play for both sides.
I believe most of us understand the difference between a pick-up game and serious competition. What high school football team would allow their star quarterback to play for them and their opponent? No army wants its soldiers fighting for both sides. No business would let their top employees work for them and their rivals. When you play or work for someone in “real” life they want undivided attention.
What we are talking about is devotion, goals, and effort. Opposing teams demand loyalty from their own players, and this cannot happen when a player tries to play both sides. While both sides may seek victory, one cannot win without the other losing. It is impossible to give best effort to one side and then turn around and fight yourself. I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 12:30. “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”
After Jesus healed a man, the multitude wondered “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matt.12:22-23) The Pharisees wanted to dispel any notion that Jesus was The Christ, and so they assigned His power to Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. (Matt. 12:24) This was a silly and ridiculous claim which made no sense. They had no interest in the miracle or evidence as their foolish response suggests.
The Lord begins His reply by affirming no kingdom, city or house can survive if divided against itself, including Satan’s kingdom. (Matt. 12:25-26) Jesus then reminds them that some of their own followers allege this power and give credit to God. (Matt. 12:27-28) The third illustration comes from a thief breaking into a strong man’s house. Before he can successfully plunder another’s home, he must subdue the master and protector of that home. (Matt. 12:29) In essence, if He could and did perform the miracle it proved their allegation false.
Two cannot be more different and opposed to each other than Satan and Jesus. Since Satan was not with the Lord, he was therefore against Him. Because the Devil did not gather with Him, he was scattering the Lord’s harvest. While the text identifies the evil one as Satan, the principle applies to anyone who is not firmly on Christ’s side. What does it mean to be with Jesus?
If you want to be with the Lord you must chose His side. (Matt. 10:32-33) It all begins by hearing the gospel, believing its message about Jesus, and then having the conviction to respond. (Rom. 10:16-17) As this unfolds a true convert will learn to love Christ enough to follow only Him. (1 John 5:2-3) In essence, we discover why He deserves our service and loyalty. (1 John 4:9-10)
As you reach this point of devotion you realize that Christ has all authority over your life. (Matt. 28:18) When this occurs then your decisions look to His Will for guidance and your wants give way to His wishes. (Gal. 2:20) You are no longer in charge of your own life because Jesus is your loving master. (Rom. 6:11-18)
I am sad to say that too many try to play both sides of the spiritual game. We want to be on the Lord’s side, but we also long for the pleasures Satan can offer. (2 Tim. 4:10) So we willing dabble a little bit in sin while asserting our love for Jesus. Look at the world of “Christianity”; it is full of such people. Many declare their devotion to Christ and yet their actions suggest otherwise. How can one be a Child of God and still dress revealingly or be sexually permissive? Christians just don’t tell lies, use profanity or attend wild parties, instead they let their light shine in a world of darkness. The truth is those with the Lord use self-control and live godly lives. (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Christ had a mission to save the world and His followers will try to do the same. Jesus speaks of a spiritual harvest and laments because the “laborers are few”. (Luke 10:2) Too many of us are lax when it comes to reaching the lost, and that is bad enough, but some of us live in a way that scatters the Lord’s harvest. It may be that our faith comes from error or our hypocrisy can turn others off. Anyway, we are not on the Lord’s side if we do not live up to His standards. You cannot play for both teams, so whose side are you on?