Are You With Me?
“Are you with me?” It’s a question we might ask an audience to make sure they haven’t gone off to sleep while we were talking. Or at a critical moment in negotiations when we need to know who is on our side and who isn’t. Or to a companion during a dark and dangerous walk along a cliff-edge to reassure ourselves he hasn’t fallen off. I don’t think Jesus means any of these when he says, "Whoever is not with me is against me; and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Luke 11:23). We might still be “with him” even if we have fallen off to sleep or feel isolated in a hard place. He himself felt abandoned, but not disconnected from his Father at the end of his life—a strange and perhaps unique experience of communion and separation. In this saying, however, I think he means a deeper knowledge than is provided by evidence-based research—what we can see or deduce. It’s the knowledge that is knowing, not the knowledge stored in memory. The opposite of it is being “scattering.” To be scattered is to have our sense of self diluted by distraction, overextended by stimulation or fragmented in myriad lines of fantasy. It is a state in which we can say or do nothing useful and in which we may be dangerous if we can pretend to be there and with it. How might you respond to Jesus's question: "Are you with me?"