We are creatures of blame. While God seeks to and fro for the one whose heart is completely devoted to Him, we humans seek to and fro for the one who is to blame for something that has gone wrong or worse for something that’s gone right and another being praised for it.
This character flaw that we all have seems to surface when we have failed and another has succeeded. Our brothers in Christ that followed Jesus gave us such a clear example of this kind of situation.
Dropping in upon a conversation between Jesus’ disciples and Jesus we hear John complain, “Master, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us” (Luke 9:49). What is interesting about this statement coming from John is that just before this conversation, the disciples were failing at casting out an evil spirit that was intent on destroying a boy. The father of the boy said to Jesus, “I begged your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not” (Luke 9:40). There should have been no reason the disciples could not have healed this boy, as earlier Jesus had given them authority and power to cast out demons. Jesus corrected his disciples and showed them that they lacked faith and prayer – this was why they failed.
Back to the earlier conversation. Do you think that John was upset that this man was casting out demons and him not being one of them or do you think it was because this man was succeeding at what the disciples failed at? I think the latter. Especially as we follow the context of the story. I love Jesus’ response to John (and the disciples listening), “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). In other words, “He is with us – we are on the same team.”
I believe that John was more upset that the disciples were not as successful as this man. The scriptures do not say that this man was not a believer; it just says he was not with them – meaning he was not with their “group” of disciples chosen to specifically to be with Jesus. Jesus was not against this man, he was very much for him. This man was casting out a demon in the name of Jesus Christ. And most likely, his faith was what made him successful.
Often, I see churches do this to each other. One church fails at an event or doesn’t bring in the masses for an outreach mission, yet another church does. One church doesn’t seem very successful at bringing people to Christ or making fully devoted followers of Jesus, yet another seems to be so on target and square in the middle of God’s will. The failing church chooses to critique why this winning church is successful; they choose to look for flaws in their approach – all to make their failures look understandable. When in fact what the failing church should do is praise God for other brothers and sisters who have followed God and succeeded at His mission. Secondly, they should learn from them, and critique not the other church but themselves and ask, “What can we do differently? Why did we fail? What do we do to improve?” This is a humble and contrite spirit that pleases God. It’s also the kind of spirit that helps us grow forward not fail backward.
Blame keeps us immature, while humble conviction accelerates our success. Being “one of us” is not the goal – holding God’s mission up and bringing Him glory is. Are we seeking to and fro for the one whose heart is fully for God? Or better yet, will God find us to be the one who is fully devoted to His glory? Not our own.