I want you to take a good look at this picture.
These are some of the international students from VCU that Ralph Starling invited to help out with a massive clothing distribution for refugees recently arrived in this country. Look at how many of them there are! Look at the smiles on those faces. Look at the women wearing Muslim head scarves.
Wait a minute.
Muslim head scarves? I thought this was a Christian mission. I thought Warren and Julie Pierce sent out an email to a bunch of different churches asking for volunteers! Maybe they did, but Ralph didn’t let that stop him. He invited some international students to come and help and they did, regardless of their religious beliefs, or, more likely, because of them.
It reminds me of that thing Jesus said in Sunday’s Gospel reading, that “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). I think Jesus himself might have worked alongside those women in head scarves, handing out clothes to refugees who arrived in this country with almost nothing. I can picture him now, laughing, talking, making sure everybody got what they needed. Do you think that at any point he would have turned to one of those women and said, “You can’t help anymore. You’re not Christian!”
No. He would not.
I think he would shrug and say, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” And he might add: “When the job is this big, when you’re trying to bring heaven to earth, you’ll take all the help you can get.”
In that same passage from Mark 9 Jesus says, “No one who does a deed of great power in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me” (vs. 39). Now, you might say those women in head scarves didn’t do a deed of great power—they were just handing out clothes. And you might say they didn’t do it in Jesus’ name—they did it because Ralph asked them to help. And you might say they would never speak evil of Jesus—he is, after all, one of their revered prophets. But if you asked them they might say, “You know, working alongside those Christians wasn’t as bad as I thought. They seem to have a lot of God’s love in them. It shows on their faces.” And the next time Ralph asked them to help out with a massive clothing distribution?
They might say yes.