Today’s passage, and the accompanying post are perhaps not as ‘nice’ as the ones that have come before..
“ Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.  But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”  Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.  If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul.  Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.  But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.  But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.
 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Luke 11:14-328 NIV
One of the more disturbing things that I’ve come across, particularly in a certain sort of evangelical/charismatic “Christianity” is the tendency to use what you could call “God-talk” or “Demon-talk” to justify opinions and actions. If you have a bright idea for something that you want to see happen in the church it is all too easy to try to give it extra weight by saying, “God told me we should do this”, or “I have a witness in my spirit”. Whilst I’m not for a moment saying that God doesn’t speak, sometimes the temptation to use his name to squash argument is a difficult temptation to resist.
Perhaps more disturbing, as Jesus himself discovered, is our tendency to demonise people we disagree with and ideas we do not understand. To say, as I’ve heard said, “That idea is from the pit of hell itself!” is an efficient way of putting down people and churches with which we disagree. Once again, I have no doubt that sometimes evil personified, or for that matter our human nature, gets in the way of God’s work, but so often the reason behind statements like this is humiliation and a desire to hurt in order to neutralise dissent.
Jesus suggests several ways by which we can make informed judgements about he source of spiritual authority. He says we should look at the character of the person making the claims or doing the work. We should look at the results of what is done or said…does the Kingdom grow and are lives changed for good as a result? Does what’s being said or done bring honour or dishonour to Jesus; is it consistent with the way he would have behaved and the things he would say?
One of the reasons God gave us the church is to protect us from people claiming sources of authority which give them power over people. A church with shared leadership offers protection from abuse from one powerful leader who has become self-serving rather than a servant of Jesus and of the people he has been given to lead. A church where the people share in the decision making process by vote or consensus offers a further check and balance. There is no such thing as a power vacuum…where good decision making is lacking evil easily creeps in.
The ideal is surely where Godly leaders and a praying, discerning membership work together to hear God’s voice and to act on what God says…I think that’s the point of Jesus statement at the end.