I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
When I used to work in the ER, it wasn’t uncommon to be involved in tragic, traumatic, and sometimes life-ending events. At other times, I had the privilege of being involved in successful, life-saving encounters. Both scenarios are dramatic, and both have had a significant impact on me. As the physician, it’s easy to mistake my role in these events though. On the one side, I can blame myself for a poor outcome – even when I did everything I possibly could. I can mistakenly internalize the tragedy and feel responsible for it. On the other side, in a life-saving event, I can embrace grandiosity, believing that I saved that one.
In both scenarios, I absolutely have a responsibility to play my role, but I must also understand the limitations of my role. I’m not God and I can’t save anyone. I can simply do my job to the best of my ability and then leave the outcome up to him. If I do my job, then taking responsibility for either the good or bad outcome is a mistake.
We often do this with those in our lives who are addicted. When they fail, we feel we’ve failed. We feel responsible for saving them and when they don’t recover, it’s our fault. When we do get to help someone find recovery, it’s then easy to inflate our part in the transformation. I saved him. Both are mistakes though. We have our part to play, but the results are God’s responsibility.
This seems to be the tone of Paul in today’s passage when he chastised those in the Corinthian church for following him or Apollos. He insisted that they follow Christ, recognizing that Paul and Apollos were just men. Yes, Paul planted the seed of faith, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who transformed and saved them.
We must realize the same thing. We certainly do have a responsibility to those around us. We must share with others what God has done in our lives. If someone is struggling with addiction, then we must love them and point them to recovery. We must be obedient to God, doing our part, but then, we must leave the results up to him. We’re not God and we cannot save anyone, but we absolutely have our part to play.