During the Persian Gulf War, on April 14, 1994, while flying their US F-15′s over the smoking wreckage of two helicopter carcasses they had just created using Sidewinder missiles, Lt. May radioed his wingman Lt. Wickson with chillingly inappropriate levity, “Stick a fork in them, they’re done.” A back-slapping success, a jubilant mission completion, save one devastating detail: the target had been US Black Hawks carrying Kurdish refugees to safety as part of Operation Provide Comfort. Wickson and May had unintentionally killed all 26 people they were supposed to be defending. So-called “Friendly Fire” is a danger in the blinding fog of war; and in the blogosphere.
There is a powerful little passage packed with the remedy of our Lord’s wisdom. Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Let’s go easy on the pre-Pentecost dirty dozen for a second. They were still basically church interns with Jordan moisture behind their ears. And although Jewish wannabees (a la Sceva’s boys in Acts 19) may have been as ubiquitous as the Golden Arches, it’s not like true believers with legitimate franchise rights to exorcism had yet established a recognizable market share in the spiritual ganglands of Judea.
So when the Twelve unexpectedly encounter a propitious troupe of unlicensed Ghostbusters toting a generic version of divine power as effective as their own FDA approved version, they were naturally a bit suspicious. Even anxious—like when discovering the “Others” in LOST. The truth is that they didn’t know what to do with these newbies. So they pull rank: “Hey, this is our turf, and no one casts out anything in our stomping ground without our sayso. Word?” A scene that plays in my mind’s eye as a kind of “The Exorcist” meets “Westside Story” (equally disturbing entertainment options in my opinion). Then they smugly trot off to report their coup to Jesus, no doubt high-fiving as they go.
Can you imagine the screenplay at this point?
Jesus: “Were they casting demons into people?”
Jesus: Were they doing it in the name of Beelzebub?
Jesus: “Were they charging fees for their service?”
Judas: “Now that would have been smart; but no.”
Jesus: “Exactly what is your beef with them?” Simon the Zealot: “They weren’t with us.”
Jesus: “What are you, the Bob Jones hall monitor? Let me tell you something boys, if they aren’t against us, it’s because they’re on our team. God’s just using them to mop up where you missed a spot.”
The Spiritual Discipline of Staying Out of the Way:
Some Christians’ vocation is to be a gratuitous speed bump on any and every ministry freeway they stumble upon. Like barnacles on a hull they latch onto any nuance they can disagree with, hoping their miniscule interference can curb the inertia of another’s ministry. Anyone who has survived the ascetic serfdom of waiting tables knows that the best way to help a fellow waitron is not to join in their table-banter but to stay out of their way. Competing for tips leaves the whole crew disgruntled, and poor.
Perhaps Navpress should get Donald Whitney to stick a brief chapter in his next book, “The Spiritual Discipline of Staying Out of the Way.” I’d read that. And I’d either give a favorable review or I’d be silent. Paul, when selecting which pixel in the 10/40 window to evangelize next, deliberately avoided overlapping with existing efforts.
Rom 15: 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.
The best part of this strategy is that it prevents friendly fire. I’m not a doctrinal pacifist. Jude has something to say about contending for the faith. I’m no Neville “Maybe Adolf will stop if we give him the Sudetenland” Chamberlain. I’m more of a Winston “We shall fight on the beaches, landing grounds, fields, and streets” Churchill. But I cherish the importance of recognizing Axis from Allies.
This week there will be some chatter about some ministry friends. Some of it will sound chillingly inappropriate. I humbly propose that we remember with whom we are at war. If you want to take your vituperative hunting rifle out for a skeet-shoot, perhaps a wounded sheep is not the best quarry.
A good fox hunt may be more profitable for the kingdom. But more on this next week, DV.